Article - Office of College Advancement

'Wizard of Oz' to come alive at Ohlone

By Barry Shatzman, Correspondent.

Saturday, December 27, 2008—Reprinted from Inside Bay Area.

Fremont—If you go see StarStruck Theatre perform "The Wizard of Oz" in January, the caliber of the singing and acting might amaze you. Or maybe the elaborate sets or special effects will dazzle you. Or perhaps the flying witch or the real dog playing Toto will impress you.

But it's after the show is over that you might find yourself being the most amazed.

"People see the cast after the show and are amazed by how small they are. You walk away and say, 'Those were kids?' " said Ray Mendonca, whose 12- and 14-year-old daughters are in the cast.

The actors might be small, but their performance of the "Wizard of Oz" Jan. 10 to 24 at Ohlone College's Smith Center will be the biggest ever for the youth theater group—which includes a cast of 60 young people and a 20-piece orchestra.

The performers are between ages 8 and 18, but the quality of the shows remains high, Director Lori Stokes said.

Stokes, who founded the group 14 years ago, said she just was looking for an activity for her daughters at the time. More than 1,000 youths have performed in StarStruck shows since the group started, she estimated.

When audiences outgrew Irvington's 80-seat Broadway West Theatre six years ago, Stokes began renting the Smith Center for StarStruck's shows. The performances now draw about 4,000 people, she said.

Anyone coming to a StarStruck production expecting to see children's theater is likely to be surprised, said Sherri Plaza, whose 12-year-old daughter Gelsey plays the munchkin who pronounces the Wicked Witch of the East dead after Dorothy's house lands on her.

"These are not like school plays. They're high-quality shows by every standard," Plaza said.

This will be Gelsey's fourth StarStruck production. The long rehearsal schedule—the cast has been rehearsing since October—has made it tough for her to do her homework, she said. But she gets it done because she doesn't want to give up the theater, she said.

"It never gets boring. I'm sad when it's over," she said.

It's more than the fun though, Plaza pointed out. When her third-grade class was giving oral presentations to parents, Gelsey had no problem agreeing to go first—having already been in a StarStruck play.

"She was confident in presenting, where other kids looked like they were going to throw up," Plaza said.

"The Wizard of Oz" will add a new twist for StarStruck. Along with flying stunts from a professional Las Vegas company and special effects from Fremont-based Red Wolf Productions, this show also features a real dog.

The dog, being trained by a Newark Memorial High School student, has had to learn to respond to the name Toto. And he barked the first time Dorothy held him while singing "Somewhere Over The Rainbow."

"Directors say that animals and children are hardest to work with. In this case, I don't think it's the children," Plaza said.

To learn more about StarStruck Theatre, visit www.StarStruckTheatre.org.

Barry Shatzman can be reached at barry@newbor.com.

IF YOU GO

  • WHAT: StarStruck Theatre production "The Wizard of Oz"
  • WHEN: 7 p.m. Jan. 10, 16, 17, 22-24; 2 p.m. Jan. 11
  • WHERE: Ohlone College Smith Center, 43600 Mission Blvd., Fremont
  • TICKETS: $20 to $25
  • INFO: 510-659-1319

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