Flying monkeys, a sparkling witch and an iconic Kansas sweetheart in red ruby slippers are taking audiences on an adventure through Emerald City.
For its annual summer musical, Zilker Theatre Productions brings the story of “The Wizard of Oz” to life each Thursday through Sunday until Aug. 12 at the Zilker Hillside Theater. Presented in conjunction with the City of Austin, each show offers a free journey over the rainbow as the sun sets in the City of the Violet Crown.
For J. Robert Moore, director of the production, directing this show is important on professional and personal levels because of the influence the story had on his childhood.
“When I was a kid, my brothers would sit me in front of ‘The Wizard of Oz,’” Moore said. “I remember just being entranced by some of the outtakes. Watching it again as an adult, there is so many little moments that have stuck with me or have influenced me artistically. I really wanted to give people things that they know and love, while also giving them a new look at a story that they already know one way.”
Hannah Roberts, who plays Dorothy, said she’s excited to play the role of a character she’s idolized since childhood.
“It is the role of a lifetime,” Roberts said. “I love how sincere Dorothy is, the song she gets to sing, the different characters she meets. I was really drawn to the role because she is similar to me in a lot of aspects — always dreams of a bigger better world.”
As she prepares to go to college, the 18-year-old said she relates to Dorothy because of the definitive journey she’s about to take.
“Zilker Park feels like my home because I have basically grown up there,” Roberts said. “I am about to go on a journey to a far away land and hopefully transform into a young woman just like her.”
Jordan Barron, who plays the Tin Man, is a lifelong fan of his character and said he has always admired his character’s nature.
“I feel like I had a very special place in my heart for the Tin Man,” Barron said. “He was sort of a shy but loving character, and I was a soft-spoken kid who was really an extrovert when I was in a theater setting.”
As regulars return to the Zilker stage, Boo Bear, a rescue mutt from Austin Animal Center (and good boy) who plays Toto, is just beginning his artistic career. Natalie Haddad, Boo Bear’s owner and handler, said this is her first major role in a production.
“She was in a musical once before,” Haddad said. “She was never professionally trained or anything. We were all really shocked at how accustomed she got to the basket (Dorothy carries Toto in.)”
Like a true professional, Haddad said Boo Bear has surprised his owners, co-workers and audiences with his quick learning and calm nature.
“Bark,” said Boo Bear.
With everyone preparing to follow the yellow brick road to the stage, Barron said he encourages audiences to go see the play because it is an important story for everyone to experience.
“It is a story that really that applies to everybody,” Barron said. “Whether you grew up watching theater or just seeing the ‘Wizard of Oz’ occasionally on television, it is something that has messages that we can apply to any aspect of our lives, whether we are adults or children.”