Follow the yellow brick road to KU
Rather than lament the frigid temperatures and bleak landscapes so typical of January, area residents can travel the yellow brick road and escape to the Land of Oz.
Join some of the most beloved characters brought to life by a local acting troupe in their version of the “The Wizard of Oz,” produced and directed by Kempton resident Tom Nardone.
His daughter, Christine Nardone Storch, is serving as musical director.
“The Wizard of Oz is a classic almost everyone wants to see over and over again,” Nardone said. “Actors usually want to portray their favorite characters in the play, so it is a blessing but you have the responsibility to live up to big expectations.”
The show will have a four-day run at Kutztown University, offering a welcome respite from the winter blues.
Many residents with ties to Kutztown, including Megan Laudenslager as Dorothy, and Mathew Lupacckino as the lion, will be featured.
Kutztown University Professor Greg Setliff plays the Tin Man and Crede Cooper from Bowers plays the Scarecrow.
Retired Northwestern Elementary School teacher Anne Towne assumes the role of the Wicked Witch.
Sue Mangold stars as Aunt Em and Rob Weidman as The Wizard.
“Each of [these actors] understands their obligation to be true to their roles, fully accepting the fact that those roles are [well] known to almost everyone coming to see their performance,” Nardone explained. “So I spend a lot of effort getting them to where they need and want to be.”
“This is the funnest role I’ve ever had,” Towne said. “You just get to let loose and be as evil and wicked as you want but could never express. In our society women have to be nice and polite and take care of people.”
“You just get to express every negative feeling you’ve never [been able to] before.
“It’s kind of fun and comic at the same time.”
Audiences will recognize all the things they love and remember from the original movie in this production, taking cues from the film as far as costumes are concerned.
“We’re going according to the movie with the exception of Toto,” Towne said. “The scarecrow has straw hanging out of his sleeve and I think I’m going to be green. The costumes are fabulous.”
Nardone said he created some himself, pieced together some, and some come from the Costume and Craft Cottage and Cecelia Somogyi in New York.
Towne said the play is for families with children.
“What is familiar will stay familiar with a few surprises,” Towne said. “But producing it for a small stage instead of a movie requires accommodation. That’s where Tom [Nardone] and Christine Storch are wonderful.”
Nardone traces his experience with theater to 1975.
“I was a Talisman Player at Gannon in Erie,” he said. “When I wanted a name, I used Talisman Players of New York. It has served me well.”
Nardone created The Talisman Players of Staten Island, producing children’s theater, high school productions and fundraising events.
When his daughter, Christine, and her family moved to the Lehigh Valley, he and his wife followed, settling in Kempton, where the father and daughter team continues the Talisman Players legacy.
“We were so successful, we outgrew our space at Trinity Lutheran, which housed us for three years,” Nardone explained. “We had performed our first summer musical in Schaeffer Auditorium but we needed a home and President Hawkinson, who admired our work invited us in.”
The Talisman Players under Nardone’s direction have performed “Fiddler on the Roof,” “How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying,” “George Washington Slept Here” and “Honk!”
“I’m always proud of every production that we do with Tom as director,” Towne said, who has had a role in each production. “He’ll take everyone in the cast and make it the best. I hope that the fun we have will transfer to the audience.
“I hope they’ll realize that were having fun.”
“We open on Jan. 17 with two brunch and play performances on Saturday and Sunday,” Nardone said.
Patrons may purchase tickets for the brunch at 1 p.m. on either day for $25 adults and $20 for children 12 and under.
“The Wizard of Oz” will run Jan. 17-20 in the Georgian Room at Kutztown University’s Old Main.
Performances are scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday; and also 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
For tickets and more information, visit talismanplayers.com.