Flat Rock Playhouse presents world premiere of Chasing Rainbows: The Road to Oz and by special arrangement with Chasing Rainbows, Probo, Thrasher, and Carolyn Violi Productions now through December 19. The musical production was conceived and produced by New York City-based Tina Marie Casamento Libby. Written by Marc Acito who wrote the Broadway hit, Allegiance, the new musical chronicles the rise to stardom of the young Judy Garland, from her from vaudeville days to Hollywood, culminating in her starring role as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.
The show features an array of star-quality talent from Broadway including: Ruby Rakos (Billy Elliot) as Frances Gumm. Rakos aptly evokes Judy Garland’s physical qualities and vocal range with wonderful finesse. Ben Crawford (On the Twentieth Century and Shrek the Musical) plays her caring but troubled father, Frank and Windi Bergamini (Doctor Zhivago and Evita) as her domineering backstage mother, Ethel. Michael Wartella (Broadway’s Wicked) plays Joe and gives an exceptional performance singing and dancing when he becomes the child star, Mickey Rooney.
To find the younger cast members, the New York-based producers and creative team auditioned local Flat Rock area youth. Among others, they cast Kyra Hewitt, who does an absolutely adorable job as Baby Gumm, as well as Nicole Johanson as Shirley Temple and Claire Griffin as Deanna Durbin.
The story begins during the Depression, when Ethel leaves Frank behind to run the faltering family movie house business to take her Frances and her two sisters to find work as the singing Gumm Sisters. They eventually head to Hollywood where Joe befriends Judy at the Hollywood Professional Children’s School. Upon his own fledgling success as Mickey Rooney, he introduces her to L.B. Mayer, the head of MGM studios, played with comic aplomb by Kevin B. McGlynn. After a year of not fitting in, she finally gets a chance to play Dorothy.
Directed and choreographed by Jeff Whiting, Chasing Rainbows: The Road to Oz is replete with standards from the MGM era as well as songs such as “Over the Rainbow,” “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” and “Broadway Rhythm” with the help of Music Supervisor and Arranger David Libby. Although the storyline is almost completely portrayed in song and dance, the incredibly talented cast makes the show a definite “must-see.”
Chasing Rainbows: The Road to Oz runs through December 19th at the Flat Rock Playhouse Mainstage, located at 2661 Greenville Highway, Flat Rock, NC 28731.
Performances are Thursday through Sunday at 8:00 pm with Saturday matinees at 2:00 pm.
Tickets can be purchased by calling the Playhouse Box Office at 828-693-0731 (toll-free at 866-732-8008) or by going online to www.flatrockplayhouse.org.