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The Witch Speaks: "Wizard Of Oz" Blows Into The Playhouse

The Playhouse is tackling a big new production. I checked in with their CEO to find out what that production is. After humming an iconic tune from the play (you should hit the Listen button above to hear it story), she revealed the title: “The 'Wizard of Oz'—can it get any bigger than 'The Wizard of Oz?'”

Asia Ciaravino came in to TPR to talk about one of The Playhouse’s most challenging productions ever.  

“We have every single thing that’s challenging in one show. Children. Animals. Special effects. Fire. Haze. Huge costumes. Crazy entrances and exits. Deaths. You name it, we’ve got it.”

As the CEO of the Playhouse, Ms. Ciaravino doesn't often act in their productions.  But she's acting in this one. And dying in it.

“I die! And it’s a pretty dramatic death. And it’s a pretty famous death—everybody knows it," she said. "It’s so fun! And I basically melt into the floor. Making that happen where it looks real and like people expect is so challenging! But it’s so awesome. Because really, she’s so sad! I know that it’s like the cackling fun villain, but …"

I interrupted her to note that we hadn’t told people what role she was playing.

“I’m the Wicked Witch! And Ms. Gulch, which is a really fun transition because I have just four minutes for my change. So we have people backstage that literally will be stripping, painting and dressing me.”

Readers should know that as the Witch, she's green.
“I’m fully green! We have an amazing costume and makeup person...it’s incredible.”

Ciaravino didn’t plan on auditioning—she went to watch the callbacks, the people who were under consideration for the role. Then her director had a question.

“Asia—will you get up there and read it?”

She did and the director chose blonde-haired, blue-eyed Ciaravino as the Witch. So does she pull it off? You be the judge (Ciaravino broke into a short speech that sounded exactly like the Hollywood version of the witch, transcription below).

"There’s so much that I can tell you, but…what I really need for you to do is come see the Wizard of Oz. And if you don’t…I’ll get you, you my pretty! And your little dog, too!”

I asked if the music was a capella.

“Oh no…we have a twelve-piece orchestra that’s incredible! You know, there's a lot of underscoring that happens in the 'Wizard,' so all these familiar sounds you'll hear live in this amazing orchestra."

I asked her to talk about the special effects needed for a production like this.

“For the crystal ball effects we have projections that come out of the crystal ball, so you’re seeing what Dorothy is seeing all over the theater," said Ciaravino. "And we also are using a bunch of different hazers, like a fog machine on steroids. So for the witch’s entrances and exits it’s like this huge smoke and fire that comes out, because we can change the color of that smoke.”

I asked her what people need to know about the production--when is it playing?

“We open on October third and run through November second--that’s five weeks of shows. It’s Friday, Saturday at 8PM, and Sundays at 3PM, and that’s the Family Sunday where you can bring all of your children; you can take pictures with the cast. It’s a blast.”

Read more about "The Wizard of Oz" here: http://www.theplayhousesa.org/?q=shows/the-wizard-of-oz

Jack Morgan can be reached at jack@tpr.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii