Hayden Braun of Ellsworth as the no-longer-cowardly lion uses his tail as a microphone in "Christmas in the Land of Oz," which opens at The Criterion Theatre on Friday, Dec. 1, at 7 p.m. ISLANDER PHOTO BY LIZ GRAVES

A search for Christmas spirit

BAR HARBOR — “Christmas in the Land of Oz,” this year’s holiday season offering from Acadia Community Theater, opens Friday at 7 p.m. at The Criterion Theatre, part of the evening’s Village Holidays and Midnight Madness festivities.

Another performance of the family-friendly play by Tamara Tudor at The Criterion is set for Saturday, Dec. 2, at 11 a.m. A pair of performances will take place at the Pemetic School in Southwest Harbor, on Friday, Dec. 8, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 9, at 2 p.m.

In the play, Dorothy and Toto make a trip to Oz to search for some Christmas spirit to share with Auntie Em and Uncle Henry. But when Dorothy arrives back in the magical land, she discovers that the Wicked Witch has plans to destroy Christmas. Dorothy finds her friends Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion, but each of them is struggling with their own challenges.

“It’s something you can do with your family, and it reminds you of family,” director Angel Hochman said. “And it’s Oz. Dorothy’s family are not just Auntie Em and Uncle Henry but all of her friends in Oz.”

Hochman was involved in the Ellsworth Players many years ago. She and her husband, Matt, found their way back to theater on the island after years away by volunteering in the high school drama program.

“We realized how much we loved it again,” she said. She was stage manager of last year’s Christmas show for ACT and the musical “Shrek” this spring. This is her first directing gig, but she seems to have a knack for encouraging performers to go big. They get plenty of mileage out of their laugh lines and added physical gags. The show promises to be quite funny.

“The kids have put so much into it, and it’s so much fun.”

Sophia Taylor plays Dorothy and is accompanied on her journey through Oz by Zoe Boland as the Scarecrow, Molly Dillon as the Tin Man, Hayden Braun as the Cowardly Lion and Cecelia Blackett as Toto. Samantha Park appears as the Wicked Witch, and Lelania Avila saves the day as Wanda June, the country singer.

The show runs between 45 minutes and an hour, so there’s not quite time for an intermission. Dance interludes set to Christmas classics are performed by groups of “Blossoms,” “Moonbeams” and “Feathers” choreographed by Christina Longstreeth.

“Honestly, all of the kids are so talented, I wanted to have them get a little bit more than one line or one peek out from the corners of the scenery,” Hochman said.

The production is assisted by Matt Hochman as technical director, Jacq Bolt as stage manager and Doug VanGorder as producer. The intergenerational affair includes teens stepping into leadership roles as assistant director, assistant stage manager and assistant technical director.

General admission tickets cost $8 for adults and $5 for seniors and children 2 to 12. Children under 2 are admitted free. Tickets can be purchased at the door or reserved in advance via the “Store” on the ACT website, www.acadiacommunitytheater.net. Email [email protected]

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the dates for the Dec. 8-9 performances.

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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