NACOGDOCHES - The Fredonia Players of Stephen F. Austin State University's School of Theatre will present "The Yellow Brick Road Show" at 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, March 5 through 7, in the Downstage Theatre in the Griffith Fine Arts Building on the SFA campus.
Formerly the Original Cast, the Fredonia Players invites the audience to join them for a hilarious, behind-the-scenes glimpse as they attempt to put on an old-fashioned radio production of the "beloved classic film that features a green witch, ruby slippers and an inconvenient cyclone," according to Jason Scott, the company's director.
While the company performs 'live' in the manner of old-time radio," Scott said, "the chaos away from the microphone threatens to turn this production into a yellow-bricked disaster."
"The Yellow Brick Road Show" is the company's "playful way" of performing a radio version of "The Wizard of Oz," Scott said. The "Oz" story, adapted from the classic 1939 film, will be familiar to the audience with songs like "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" featured.
"But we've added a twist, as the live performance of the show is unexpectedly beset by last-minute changes and hilarious complications," Scott said. "We think audiences will love seeing the familiar old story recreated in the fashion of old-time radio while also becoming involved with the frantic attempt to make the production go off without a hitch."
This semester's cast list includes Graham freshman Carly Nunn, Fort Worth sophomore Molly Mitchell, Friendswood freshman Anna Elizabeth Drake, Amarillo sophomore Mary Collie, Marietta, Ga., junior Hannah Johnson, Arlington senior Corinne Shady, Houston senior Kurt Bilanoski, Blue Ridge senior Luke Norton, Galveston sophomore Joseph Aldape, Copperas Cove sophomore Molly Dyer and Sherman junior Noah Scheibmeir.
The Fredonia Players
This production will be the first for the new Fredonia Players, which is the "alternative" theatre company that will serve as "lab" space for new work - comedy, variety, music, drama, site-specific - that will be determined on an annual basis by the members of the group and the faculty advisor.
"'The Original Cast' was created over 20 years ago by Dr. Alan Nielsen (professor emeritus in SFA's School of Theatre), and for the past several years, it has functioned essentially as a cabaret/variety troupe," Scott said. "Dr. Nielsen is a very talented musician and vocal arranger, and the work he did for several generations of Lumberjack students and Nacogdoches audiences is stunning.
"When he retired and I was asked to take over the direction of the group (as The (New) Original Cast), I knew it would be impossible to duplicate the process and manner in which Dr. Nielson produced his shows," he said. "My background is in improvisation and new work, and while I love music and musicals, I do not have the experience or talent that would be required to produce a high-quality cabaret-style show."
So it was with Nielsen's blessing that the name Original Cast was retired, and the group was "rebirthed" as the Fredonia Players, Scott said.
The choice of name comes "out of respect for our local heritage, as well as to the career of the Marx Brothers, who have a special connection to Nacogdoches and chose the name 'Fredonia' as the country in the film 'Duck Soup,'" Scott explained.
The Fredonia Players will continue to perform annually at the Nine Flags Festival each Christmas holiday season and offer at least one show on campus per year, he said. The goal is to offer more variety in terms of the type of material performed.
"Ultimately, I'd love to see us produce a play written by a student playwright, develop 'devised' work that can be performed at regional, national and international festivals, and generally find ways of doing things that don't fit into our traditional Mainstage and Downstage season," Scott said.
Old-fashioned radio show
"The Yellow Brick Road Show" contains some suggestive innuendo and colorful language not suitable for children under 12, Scott advised, adding that the overall tone of the humor is similar to television comedies such as "30 Rock" or "The Big Bang Theory."
The program was created and developed by the Fredonia Players with Scott serving as director. Zach Hanks is assistant director and voice coach.
"Our goal will still be to entertain audiences and provide our students with the chance to 'create their own work' that can connect with the SFA and Nacogdoches communities," Scott said. "We hope that fans of the Original Cast will join us on our new adventure, and we hope to pick up a new generation of fan, as well."
Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for seniors and students. For tickets and more information, call the Fine Arts Box Office at (936) 468-6407 or visit www.finearts.sfasu.edu.