Plum High School performers plan to bring audiences to the merry old land of Oz in April | TribLIVE.com
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Michael DiVittorio

Plum High School musical cast and crew hope folks follow the yellow brick road to the auditorium for a performance of “The Wizard of Oz.”

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the time-tested classic about a young Kansas farm girl and her dog’s journey back home through the magical land of Oz after a tornado rips through their town.

Director Nick Mitchell said the anniversary did not factor into the decision to select it as this year’s Plum musical.

“Boy, was it a happy accident when we realized it was (at the milestone),” Mitchell said. “There’s some fantastic students here. We’ve been very lucky of having a bumper crop all the time coming up with new talent. We try to make sure we spread it around. It’s fun to watch some of the younger kids look up to the older kids.”

More than 100 students are involved in the production, from the performers to the orchestra and stage crew.

Junior Liza Loebig plays the lead role, Dorothy. Her pet, Toto, will be played by Nikki, a miniature Schnauzer.

“It’s really an honor,” Loebig said. “This was always such a classic movie for my family. It was something we all really cherished. As a young girl my room was decorated with ‘Wizard of Oz’ stuff. It’s really awesome we get to do this show, especially on the 80th anniversary. To be Dorothy means a lot to me and I’m very excited to play such an iconic character.”

Loebig said they called the dog’s treats “Toto” to help Nikki perform on stage.

“She’s an adorable little dog,” Loebig said. “It’s kind of funny because I’ve always been terrified of dogs. Having to work with a dog is another step as a performer for me.”

Loebig will be joined on stage by senior Jonah Babusci (Cowardly Lion), junior Tyler Gallagher (Tin Man) and senior Derek Jenkins (Scarecrow). They all have a few musicals under their belts.

“It’s really sad because I’m a senior and will be leaving all my friends, but it’s great to close out with such an amazing show like this,” Jenkins said of his last Plum performance. “It’s a really big bang. It’s coming together really well. We’re all doing our own individual things to make this be one entity. I think all of us are putting our hearts and souls into the rehearsal process.”

Practices began in early January. The shows are scheduled for 7 p.m. April 11-13.

One of its many highlights is the full cast performance of the song, “Merry Old Land of Oz.”

Mitchell said the performers have worked very hard and will be ready for opening night.

“We’re checking off the boxes every day that goes by,” he said. “We’ve run the show from beginning to end, and now it’s just polishing a lot of it and filling in a little bit of opportunities here and there. We pride ourselves on having entertainment for the whole family. It’s not everywhere you look these days that you can have a family outing and not look twice about what inference or what reference is being made.”

Babusci was not scared to take on the role of the Cowardly Lion. It’s his fourth Plum musical.

“You read the lines and try to live through the eyes of the character,” he said. “When I’m in the costume and up there I’m not Jonah. I’m the lion. I don’t think I’m ever going to find another stage, or crew or directors that are going to be better than this one. There’s no other people I’d rather be working with. It’s the best talent that we have.”

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