Pictured, from left, are Dorothy played by Ella McNeish, Glinda the Good Witch portrayed by Risë Hanifan and the Wicked Witch of the West played by Kristina Smith. / All photos by Lily Hicks for My Buckhannon

Are you off to see the Wizard? BCT’s magical summer production of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ debuts Thursday

BUCKHANNON – The red curtain is ready to rise on the Buckhannon Community Theatre’s enchanting summer production of “The Wizard of Oz,” which is set to captivate audiences with its whimsical charm and heartfelt performances.

In preparation for a series of shows that debuts Thursday and extends through Sunday, the cast and crew are hard at work, pouring their passion and dedication into bringing the Land of Oz to life at the Virginia Thomas Law Center for the Performing Arts on West Virginia Wesleyan College’s campus.

“In a lot of ways, this has been one of our more challenging summer productions due to the sheer number of cast members we have,” Director Laura Meese said at Wednesday’s media night. “But all the while, we’ve had really good attitudes from everybody, and everyone has been very helpful.”

“The Wizard of Oz” follows the magical journey of Dorothy and her loyal companions, whom she meets along the way, as they navigate the vibrant yet treacherous Land of Oz in search of the Wizard. Along the yellow brick road, they confront their inner fears, discover their hidden strengths, and ultimately learn that home is where the heart truly belongs.

BCT, known for its commitment to fostering artistic collaboration, has brought together a diverse and large cast, one of the largest in its history, that spans various age groups and experiences, creating what is anticipated to be a truly unique and captivating rendition of this timeless tale.

One of the highlights of the show is the portrayal of the Cowardly Lion by a familiar face in the community, BJ Hoffman, who hasn’t graced the stage since high school. Sharing his excitement, Hoffman said, “It’s been nice to work with people who enjoy collaborating within the arts and to interact with the new community where I am now.”

Hoffman’s portrayal has earned applause from colleagues and friends, who believe he was born to play the role. They say his energetic and spirited performance perfectly captures the essence of the beloved character, leading to a mesmerizing experience for the audience.

“Every single person I’ve spoken to about this role, including my boss and several other of my friends, have said that this was the perfect character choice for me,” Hoffman said. “I’d never seen the movie, but after rehearsals and now that I’ve been able to fully experience it, I can say it’s a perfect fit.”

The production is a dream come true for Ella McNeish, who plays Dorothy.

“I just love playing the character and getting to know my cast,” she said.

With years of theater experience under her belt, McNeish tries to bring a sense of authenticity and depth to the role of Dorothy, she said. The seasoned actor also aims to capture the essence of the character’s longing for home and her transformative journey.

The challenges faced during the production process have only served to strengthen the bonds between the cast and crew, Meese said. She reflected on the unique hurdles they have collectively encountered, including the involvement of numerous children under the age of 10 and logistical challenges with the tech setup.

Despite these obstacles, the entire team has maintained a positive and collaborative spirit.

“Everybody works well together – there are good vibes all around,” Meese remarked. She also emphasized the incredible support and camaraderie that have defined the production.

Don’t miss the opportunity to experience the enchantment of “The Wizard of Oz” brought to life by the talented performers of the Buckhannon Community Theatre. Mark your calendars and join them on this unforgettable journey when the production debuts Thursday at 7 p.m. or catch it throughout the weekend.

Additional times and more information may be found at www.facebook.com/BuckhannonCommunityTheatre. Tickets cost $15 and can be purchased online here.

Risë Hanifan as Glinda and Ella McNeish as Dorothy surrounded by many munchkins.
McNeish will sing the classic “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
BJ Hoffman, who stars as farmhand Zeke and the Cowardly Lion, and McNeish, as Dorothy holding her beloved Toto.
Kristina Smith flies on scene as the notorious Wicked Witch of the West. She also plays Miss Gulch in the show.
A photo of those can’t-miss iconic ruby red slippers — not to mention Glinda’s glamorous gown.

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