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‘Wizard of Oz’ takes the stage at Liberty Middle School

Nolan Shea is the scarecrow in the Cheney and Liberty middle schools’ production of The Wizard of Oz. Dave Wallis1 / 3
Nolan Shea, Maddie Johnson, Alex Johnson, Jaarel Hansen and Madi Inman rehearse a scene from the Cheney and Liberty middle schools’ production of The Wizard of Oz. Dave Wallis2 / 3
Molly Lamp, Grace Lamp, Maddie Johnson and Madi Inman rehearse a scene from the Cheney and Liberty middle schools’ production of The Wizard of Oz. Dave Wallis3 / 3

Students from Cheney and Liberty middle schools are to perform in three productions of “The Wizard of Oz.” The shows will take place tomorrow, Friday and Saturday evening, and all shows start at 7 p.m.

“It is going to be a fabulous show,” co-director Susan Morken said. “The effort these kids have put in, along with the costumes and set, has just been wonderful.”

This will be the ninth middle school production co-directed by Morken and Jo Brekke. Morken, a choir teacher, focuses on the musical aspect of the productions while Brekke specializes in set and costume design, and the two “complement each other nicely.”

This year marks the 75th anniversary of “The Wizard of Oz” coming to theaters, and Morken and Brekke thought there was no better time than now for their students to perform.

“This is a show that we have wanted to do for a long time, but it is difficult to get a hold of for schools,” Morken said. “They usually come high-school ready — with music for a pit orchestra and things like that — but we got a hold of a young edition that came with a CD with some great sound effects and accompaniment.”

Morken described the show as a “labor of love” from a lot of people, including plenty of parent volunteers. While the directors are confident in the production they have helped create, they admit they had some obstacles in bringing the show to the stage.

“There have been some real challenges,” Morken said. “How are we supposed to do the twister scene, or the balloon ascent? We have had plenty of work in making this happen. There are 15 scenes, so there is a lot of stuff going on.”

The directors held auditions for the show in late November, and began rehearsing just a few weeks later. According to Morken, these middle school shows serve as a starting point for many student actors.

“Many of these middle school actors get hooked and go on to participate in high school theatre,” Morken said. “We are a great theater program for Adam (Pankow) at the high school and whoever becomes the theater director at Sheyenne High School, and it is nice for us to go to their productions and see our old kids are in leading roles. Kids are finding a niche here, and that is part of every child’s success. They need something that draws them and gets them passionate about something.”

Tickets for “The Wizard of Oz” are available for purchase at the Liberty Middle School office, and cost $5 per seat. According to Morken, it will be well worth the money.

“It will be a delightful evening of entertainment,” Morken said. “It won’t be too scary, so this would be a good opportunity to introduce your young children to the story without them being afraid of the witch or the flying monkeys. I don’t think you can go anywhere in town and have a nice event for that price.”