Falling on stage isn’t likely to bring an actor glory.
But Colleen Williams, Scarecrow in Theatre @ CBT’s production of “The Wizard of Oz,” finds the experience challenging but rewarding.
Ray Bolger, the precedent-making Scarecrow in the beloved 1939 movie, did a lot of dancing — and some stumbling.
Williams’s involvement in community theater began a decade or so ago playing a tree in “The Wizard of Oz.”
“Now a tree is throwing apples at me,” she said, referring to the memorable scene in which Scarecrow coaxes fruit out of a stingy tree by insulting its produce.
Williams was drawn back to community theater partly because of the chance to perform with her two daughters, Jackie, 8, and Sabrina, 6, playing the Mayor and barrister.
They’re part of an ensemble of 28 children who have multiple roles.
Elizabeth Weiss, starring as Dorothy, is faced with the formidable task of putting her own stamp on a role for which the term “iconic” is insufficient.
But she’s focused less on the aura of Judy Garland, star of the movie, and more on other challenges, such as being a 28-year-old playing someone half her age.
“I’m working on changing my voice, especially in the singing, to get the breathlessness,” Weiss said.
Weiss added that she’s “plus-sized, not the typical body type” for Dorothy.
It’s also not easy, she laughed, to be too busy during rehearsals to take a drink of water.
Now that she’s playing her, Weiss sees more complexity in Dorothy than she might have noticed before.
“She transitions from a spoiled self-centered brat and who can make everyone miserable — including running away from her family — to someone who changes her perspective completely in one night and recognizes that other people have feelings,” Weiss said. “The journey her three companions undertake really reflects Dorothy’s own. To acquire a brain, heart and courage, she needs to grow up.”
While Michael Chernoff has led religious services and read from the Torah at his Potomac synagogue, Cong. B’nai Tzedek, home of Theatre @ CBT, this is the first time he’s acting there.
But two of his three children have been involved in the theater, and the family atmosphere drew him in.
Though Chernoff said he would have been happy with any role in “Wizard,” he’s gratified to be cast as the Cowardly Lion. It didn’t take much for the content of the play to inspire him.
“I’ve pretty much been watching the movie (of “The Wizard of Oz) annually,” he said. “It’s a great story and great music, and I love to sing.”
What has made the part different than others he’s held is the requirement to sing, dance and act “all at the same time.”
“That doesn’t come naturally to me,” Chernoff admitted. “Coordinating all three is a new experience.”
Where he gets the “fuel” for his performance comes from the children in the play — one of whom is his daughter Hannah.
“They’ve all seen the movie, and I like when they recognize my character in what I’m doing,” he said.
The cast includes: Tom Barylski as Tinman; Jennifer Georgia as the Wicked Witch; Jeff Breslow as the Wizard; and Lauren-Nicole Gabel, founder of Theatre @ CBT, is Glinda.
Hugo Fine is Toto in Act 1 and Becca Fielding, in Act 2.
The story is by L. Frank Baum, with music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg. The production was adapted by John Kane for the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Kevin Sockwell directed; San Welch is music director, and Ashlee McKinnon is the choreographer.
Weiss is costuming the entire show, with creativity that’s “amazing,” Williams said.
“The Wizard of OZ: runs Feb. 9 and 10, only, at the synagogue, 10621 S. Glen Road, Potomac. www.cbttheatre.com.