‘Wizard of Oz’ coming to Forest Lake

Cast members prepare for a dance scene.
Cast members prepare for a dance scene.

Children’s Performing Arts will present “The Wizard of Oz” in four performances next weekend.

The first show will be Friday, Feb. 15 at 7 p.m., followed by two on Saturday, Feb. 16 (1 and 7 p.m.) and a 3 p.m. matinee on Sunday, Feb. 17.

Jazmine Jendersee sings “Somewhere, Over the Rainbow” in rehearsal.
Jazmine Jendersee sings “Somewhere, Over the Rainbow” in rehearsal.

Lead roles are played by Jazmine Jendersee as Dorothy, Jessica Palm as Scarecrow and Lauryn Wurscher as Tin Man. Lindsey Carlson and Hannah Schwaab share the job of playing Toto, the dog. Abby Barsness is the Wicked Witch of the East, and Amelia Janisch plays Glinda. Jacob Murphy is Professor Marvel, the Wizard of Oz.

Children’s Performing Arts (CPA) was established in 2005 to help elementary children develop confidence, expression and theatrical talents through a structured theater arts program. It was modeled after Forest Lake’s Youth Performing Arts for junior and senior high students.

Until 2009 their home was Forest Hills United Methodist Church. Now they meet at Faith Lutheran Church.

The first production, in 2006, was “Come, Messiah, Come” with 27 children participating. Last spring’s “Jungle Book Kids” had 69 in the cast. The current production is the 13th show for the group.

Past productions had a volunteer orchestra, but the group now uses prerecorded accompaniment for consistency in rehearsal.

Jacob Murphy, who plays the wizard, gets outfitted by Sherri Nelson.
Jacob Murphy, who plays the wizard, gets outfitted by Sherri Nelson.

The cast is mostly kids from Forest Lake who attend elementary school at Forest Lake, Forest View,  LILA and St. Peter’s. A few come from Linwood, Scandia and Wyoming.

Director Allison Foree is the music teacher at LILA. Carrie Carlson is her assistant. Both directors teach the choreography.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to start exposing your family to musical theatre,” Director Foree said.

Jennifer Wurscher, president of the board of directors, said this is the first year that “The Wizard of Oz” is available in a youth performance edition.

This version is family-friendly, written for young audiences. Preschoolers are welcome at the performances. “The witch is more comical than scary,” the mom of one young actor said.

Tickets are free, but reservations are necessary to ensure a spot. The seating is general admission. To reserve tickets, call 651-295-9392.

A free-will offering will be taken to offset costs.

Wurscher said each production costs up to $5,000. CPA rents rehearsal space and buys insurance. The script is a major expense, plus each showing requires a license fee payment.

Besides the free-will offering, another source of income is food sold at intermission, so come hungry if you want to help out.

Culver’s in Forest Lake will sponsor a pancake breakfast from 8 to 10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 9 to benefit the group.

CPA has no paid staff: All workers are volunteers, including the board, directors, set designers and costume crew.

Most of the families involved found the program by word of mouth. The season starts in October each year.

Donations to the 501c3 nonprofit organization are tax-deductible.