Community Children's Theatre (CCT) of the Peoria Park District will present its munchkin-filled production of The Wizard Of Oz. This classic musical opens July 7 and runs through July 10 at Peoria Player's Theater.

The Wizard Of Oz chronicles the adventures of Dorothy Gale, a Kansas farm child, who finds herself in an unfamiliar place when her family's farm is hit by a tornado. In Munchkinland, Dorothy and her dog, Toto, meet both a good and a bad witch and begin a journey along the yellow brick road to ask the Wizard of Oz to help them return to Kansas. Along the way, Dorothy meets all our favorite characters: the Scarecrow who longs for a brain, the Tin Man who yearns for a heart, and the Cowardly Lion who wants courage. For each, it turns out to be an unforgettable journey of self-knowledge and growth.

Replete with all the endearing characters from the original production, this traditional musical adaptation features unforgettable melodies: "Over the Rainbow," "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead," "We're Off to See the Wizard," and many more.

L. Frank Baum's 1900 children's classic will be brought to life by 75 of the most talented young performers from the Peoria area, ranging in age from eight to 18. For some of the cast, this will be their first experience on the stage, while other cast members are veterans. Whatever the level of experience, Mary Ellen Ulrich said, "The Wizard Of Oz is a great show, and this cast will bring those very famous characters to life."

Principal characters are Alison Dixon (Dorothy), Mike Jones (Scarecrow), Stephen Young (Tin Man), Kyle Griffith (Cowardly Lion), Lindsay Sparrow (Wicked Witch), Hope Grandon (Glinda), Rebecca Maloney (Auntie Em), Jacob Van Ness (Uncle Henry), Jonathan Friday (Oz Guard), Seth Hannan (Wizard of Oz), and Willis Barber (Professor).

In addition to the lively cast members, CCT is delighted to have Mary Ellen Ulrich as director for this summer's musical. Ulrich's experience includes directing the Teen Mystery Dinner Theater that's sponsored by the Peoria Park District for high school students. She also co-directs a Broadway musical with her husband, Mike, each year for their church. Her experience, energy, and love for the kids make her a superb director. Ulrich said, "I love working with kids, and I especially like the energy of a large cast; the hard part, of course, is not being able to cast everyone."

The production staff includes Youth Production Coordinators Kris Griffith and Kathy Maloney, Production Assistant Terri Fuller, Musical Director Lynn Grandon, Costumer Patricia Reardon, Choreographer Kerri Elias, Set Designer Chris Paternoga, Set Construction Mike Waag, Lighting Designer Pam Orear, and Stage Managers Erin Pantages and Kensey Curtin.

Community Children's Theatre was founded in 1957 as a cooperative effort between the Peoria Park District and community volunteers dedicated to providing a healthy experience in dramatics for kids ages eight to 18 in the Peoria area. The program is planned and developed by an advisory board, with administrative support provided by Peoria Park District Fine Arts Coordinator Linda Elegant Huff. CCT currently produces two musicals each year.

The Wizard of Oz is family entertainment at its best. This show is a beloved classic for the child in all of us. On behalf of these talented children and the Community Children's Theatre, we invite you to join us for a fun-filled, magical evening where "dreams that you dare to dream really do come true."

Show dates are July 7 to 10 at Peoria Players; the July 10 show will be interpreted for the hearing impaired. Tickets cost $8 for adults and $6 for children and seniors. They can be purchased at the Peoria Park District's Glen Oak Pavilion. For additional information, call 681-2861. AA!