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LOGON to Stage "The Wizard"

From Kansas to Oz and Back Again

The veteran English-language musical theater group, the Light Opera Group of the Negev (LOGON), will be following the yellow brick road this spring with its production of The Wizard of Oz.

The show is a close adaptation of the classic 1939 movie about Dorothy, the Kansas farmgirl swept away by a tornado with her dog Toto into the fantasy world of Oz. The stage version includes all the well-known songs from the film, such as "Over the Rainbow", "We're Off to See the Wizard", "Follow the Yellow Brick Road", and "Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead", as well as songs that were cut from the movie.

The musical has all the whimsical characters featured in the film: good witches, bad witches, the cowardly lion, scarecrow and tin man and a host of strange beings. To find her way home, Dorothy must journey along the yellow brick road to meet the mysterious and "all-powerful" Wizard in Emerald City. She and her friends brave many dangers, including the Wicked Witch of the West, who will stop at nothing to get her hands on Dorothy's magical ruby slippers. And we all remember the moral of the story: to make it home safely, Dorothy must learn an important lesson: there's no place like home.

What is this family classic all about? Like many fairy tales, The Wizard of Oz has layers of meaning: an adult message in the context of fantasy.

In the 1939 movie real life was shown in black and white, and when Dorothy's dream began it became color (those were the early days of technicolor).

"You don't need the starkness of black and white to show how difficult the lives of the people in Kansas were," comments LOGON's long-time stage director Yaacov Amsellem. Taking place against the background of the era of the Great Depression and the dust bowl, "our production shows how hard life was. You can understand the dream sequence and understand the function of escapism."

"There are so many levels to the show; its greatness is that every age can understand it in their own way," continues Amsellem. "In the play every character is searching for something: no heart, no brain, no courage? We all are involved in the question of whether our heart is in the right place, in the age of high tech, is our brain good enough?"

Nothing in the fantasy of Oz is as it seems. "The tin man, who says he doesn't have a heart, is emoting more than any of the characters – he's crying all the time," says director Amsellem. "The scarecrow, who doesn't have a brain, is actually the clever one. The lion, who believes he's a coward, in the end is not at all cowardly. The man who claims to be a great wizard turns out to be a con man. Yet he continues in this role even when he's been found out."

The role of Dorothy (Judy Garland's famous role in the 1939 movie) is 22-year-old New Yorker Aida Hasson, a first-year student in the Medical School for International Health (MSIH) at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Aida spent a year at Midrasha Lindenbaum in Jerusalem and has a degree in neuroscience from Colorado College. "I was interested in the global medicine perspective at Ben-Gurion, and I also wanted the opportunity to be in Israel," she explains.

The English language MSIH, formerly known as the "Columbia Program" for BGU's original collaboration with Columbia University Medical Center, is a unique medical school that incorporates global health components into all four years of a core M.D. curriculum. Founded 24 years ago, the school's concept was to train a new type of physician who would have special skills in dealing with multicultural populations, particularly those in the United States and Israel.

Over the years many medical students have taken part in LOGON performances, despite their demanding schedules. Some students have even held principal roles.

Aida come to the show with a background of many years in theatre and voice lessons. "So, when I came to Israel for medical school, I was looking for ways of continuing that and then I discovered LOGON," she says. Aida shares an apartment in Beer Sheva with her sister Hannah, age 20, who is also studying in the MSIH program – surely the first "sister act" in the history of the Medical School.

LOGON, which draws participants from the south of the country, is the oldest existing English language community theater group in Israel. Founded in 1981, originally to perform Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, the company now stages a different Broadway musical every year, taking its productions around the country to a wide audience of all ages. The Wizard of Oz is LOGON's 42nd production.

Beginning February 23 and throughout March, LOGON will be staging The Wizard of Oz in Eshkol, Ashkelon, Jerusalem, Netanya, Raanana, Givatayim, Beit Shemesh, Modiin, Rehovot, and Beer Sheva. The performances are in English with Hebrew surtitles. For information about performances or tickets, call 08 641 4081, or go to www.negevlightopera.com or https://www.facebook.com/NegevLightOpera

 

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