Need a break from reality? Head over to OAT?for some lions and tigers, and bears (oh my)!

Need a break from reality? Head over to OAT?for some lions and tigers, and bears (oh my)!

The classic tale of a young girl from Kansas transported into a dream world that makes her realize how lucky she is will take the stage in Rolla tonight with twists and turns beyond those of the yellow brick road.

"Everyone knows and loves (The Wizard of Oz),” said Ozark Actors Theatre Producing Artistic Director Jason Cannon. “This production embraces that tradition while also introducing some fun and modern spin on a few of the characters."

His cast has enjoyed the updated version of the beloved story.

"It's a Frankenstein version of the Wizard of Oz," said April Strelinger, who plays Almira Gultch and the Wicked Witch of the West.

She explained the production is a mash-up of the Royal Shakespeare Company version, the Muny cut out of St. Louis and some of Andrew Lloyd Webber's new version.

Strelinger is one of the show's two equity actors, and says the mash-up of different versions of the show makes for an entertaining night for the audience, filled with moments of humor and humanity it may not expect.

One of these moments is apparent in Strelinger's favorite scene, which takes place right before her singing performance.

"It's a funny scene," she said. "It's her and the winkies, and she's being greedy, but also being a little bit vulnerable."

Strelinger has been able to use the background for her character that came from the wildly popular stage show Wicked to tap into those vulnerable moments not typically expected from her character.

Strelinger resides in St. Louis where she is the Educational Programs Coordinator for the St. Louis Repertory Theatre. She says Rolla's reputation brought her to the show.

"Coming to Rolla really attracted me," she said, "I know that sounds so weird, but I heard so many wonderful things about Rolla and how they really embrace their theater here."

The second member of the Actors' Equity Association to take part in this year's season opener at OAT is Rolla resident Cindy Beger.

Beger is playing the roles of Aunt Em and Glinda the good witch. Beger has taken to the OAT stage a number of times in recent years and is the current Vice-President of OAT’s board of directors.

Playing dual roles creates a need for a quick change for both of the actresses. Beger has just a few moments to turn herself from the relatively plain farmer's wife into the beautiful princess-like Glinda, while Stelinger has approximately eight minutes to transform from the angry neighbor in Kansas to a head-to-toe green wicked witch.

Aside from the crew of 20 local "munchkins," Dorothy Gale, played by Tess Hamacher, is the only actor not making any major costume changes during the production.

Even the face of Dorothy's beloved dog, Toto changes between the first and second act.

While Dorothy is in Kansas, Toto is played by Borameare, an American Kennel Club champion Cairn Terrier. While in Oz, Toto is played by two-legged actress Kaylee Stanley.

According to Borameare’s owner, Theresa Wegner, Wizard of Oz will be Borameare's stage debut, although one of his daughters made an appearance in an OAT production of Gypsie.

Working with a live animal has provided Hamacher with a new experience.

"You have to practice with him so he can learn his cues and tell him when to come on and things, but he's been really good about it," Hamacher said. "It actually helps you even more with the emotion, anyways, to have a real dog there that you can sort of bond with."

Hamacher, a 16-year-old Rolla native, has performed in several shows over the last eight years, including the role of Pepper in the OAT production of Annie in 2010.

One of her fellow cast members bragged not only on Hamacher's acting abilities, but shared that she was the first of the cast to memorize all of her lines.

She says she has learned a lot working with the Equity actors during the show, and is very excited to see opening night arrive.

"It will just be really great seeing it all come together, seeing our hard work pay off and all the fun we've had and all the memories we've made," she said.

The show runs through July 1 with shows at 7 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. matinees on Fridays and Sundays. Tickets are $20 for adults, $16 for children 17 and under, and $50 for a family four-pack. Family four-packs are good for Thursday shows and matinees only. Tickets can be purchased  online at or prior to the show in person at the Cedar Street Playhouse located at the corner of Cedar Street and Seventh Street across from the Rolla High School.

OAT's 25th season lineup also includes Noises Off by Michael Frayn and The Diviners by Jim Leonard J.