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“The Wizard of All Aboard”: A unique troupe reimagines Oz

Doug Ramsay photo

Jay Fazekas performs as the scarecrow in the “Wizard of All Aboard” at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Everett.

EVERETT — When work, the bills, the crises, the kids– or the parents– make reality unpalatable, a little escapism can be just the thing, and “The Wizard of All Aboard,” offers the opportunity.
 The “Wizard of Oz” live spinoff is showing one more night only, Aug. 8, but months worth of passion have been poured into the script, which is full of classic movie influences with a topical modern take.
 The three author team, and the cast, are comprised of members and staff of All Aboard, an Everett-based nonprofit center for adults with special needs.
 Film lovers will find many touchstones in the production: misunderstood Dorothy, check; witches, good and bad, check; winged monkeys– oh yes.
 But they’ll also witness actors who’ve risen to the challenge of performing blind, in wheelchairs or non-verbally, among others. And through it all, a virtual yellow brick road of frivolity and creativity runs.
 This distant, technicolor land offers an escape but also insight into the daily highlights of center participants. Ruby red slippers morphed into glittering bowling shoes in homage to a favorite weekly pastime are just one whimsical reference.  
 Co-author Edward Barnhart wasn’t above playing to the local crowd either. Movie fans who remember the Cowardly Lion’s speech about courage will find new nods to folks he finds brave like coach Pete Carroll. Barnhart, who also plays the fearful feline, even grew a beard the past six months to look the part.
 Dorothy, played one night by co-author Casey Helland, didn’t even intend to try out for the show, but some positive peer pressure and the impression her singing made on the director roped her in to the lead.
 After auditions, actors began weekly rehearsals and many participants displayed their artistic talents, creating props and sets from scratch.
 The writers made some accommodations for the distinct needs of their cast; some lines were shortened; some roles choreographed to address mobility issues; and a traditional stage was replaced with a floor for wheelchair accessibility.
 The group’s creativity, evident in walls full of multimedia art at the center, spilled over into the sets. A bus decorated with countless strips of vividly colored duct tape transports these characters and a nearly 3-foot-tall crystal ball whose secret identity is a yoga ball is transformed by tin foil and rhinestones.
 Barnhart said his favorite aspect of the play is a chase scene: he revels in trying to run  off stage while two characters try to apprehend him. But he also has an affinity for a moment at the show’s end where he gets to share more about the program.
 Mostly, he is just proud, of the play and the cast.
 “I like all the parts,” Helland says, opting not to choose among the delights of writing, singing, and acting.
 “The Wizard of All Aboard” starts at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 8. The performance is at the Knights of Columbus Hall at 2913 W. Marine View Drive. The performance is free: Donations are appreciated and proceeds fund scholarships to enable more clients to participate at All Aboard.



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