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Accordion-playing actor inspires In Search of the Wizard of Oz

When most of us think of

The Wizard of Oz

, we generally think about Victor Fleming's iconic 1939 film. Or maybe we think of L. Frank Baum's original book, or, if we're theater buffs, we might think of Tim Kelly's popular stage adaptation. That last one was the one the Festival Playhouse in Arvada was working with, in a children's theater workshop the playhouse was doing, when Charlie Ault thought up a way to adapt the familiar story yet once again -- with a bit of a twist.

"My wife, Donna, she was kind of the sole adult in the play, and she always played the Wicked Witch. And she really liked playing the Wicked Witch," says Ault. "So one day, one of my actors just inadvertently picked up an accordion and started playing it. And I thought, how cool, you know, that we have these actors who have all these other talents that people don't necessarily get to see."

So Ault had the idea to do a play that would showcase those side talents -- and idea that provided the germination for In Search of the Wizard of Oz. "The actual Wizard of Oz play doesn't really accommodate that," noted Ault, and so, along with his family, which runs the playhouse, Ault went back to the source, Baum's book, and made a way to accommodate it.

"Turns out," he says, "the Scarecrow plays the accordion."

Aside from that, the Tin Man is a guitarist, the Cowardly Lion can sing, and the Wizard himself, well, it turns out he can do magic tricks. "It's a little campy," he admits. "But it's also a great deal of fun. And that's what we're all about."

In Search of the Wizard of Oz, which marks the Festival Playhouse's 74th year of operation as a family-owned theater, debuts tomorrow night, Friday, August 6, at the Festival Playhouse in Arvada, and runs through this weekend and next. To buy tickets or for more information on dates or showtimes, call 303-422-4090.

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