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'Ease on Down' to Encore's Performance of 'The Wiz'

The Libertyville-based theater company's performances will be held July 19-21 at Lake Forest High School.

When it comes to the musical "The Wiz," it's not too different from the beloved "The Wizard of Oz."

Dorothy, Toto, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow are all there, trying to make their way to see the wizard in Emerald City.

But then there's the music.

"It's the same storyline, but there's way more upbeat music, in my opinion," said Ashley Muller, who will be a freshman this fall at Carmel High School.

"The Wiz" has an "afrotastic feel," added Jack Miller, a seventh-grader at in Libertyville.

will present "The Wiz" at 7 p.m. July 19 and 20, and at 1 and 7 p.m. July 21, at Lake Forest High School, 1285 North McKinley Road. Tickets for all performances are $12 apiece and can be purchased by calling (847) 708-8880 or visiting www.encoretheatre.net.

Made famous by Michael Jackson and Diana Ross in 1978, "The Wiz" features songs like "Ease on Down the Road" and "A Brand New Day."

"'The Wiz' is such a fun show," said Lauren Kelly, a freshman. "It's kind of a whole new level. It's crazy. It's fun."

Kelly will play Addaperle, the Good Witch.

"I like that she's a good witch but she has a lot of flaws," said Kelly. "She tries to do magic, but she's not very good at it."

Her final show with Encore, this will be the first time Kelly will have a lead role in one of Encore's summer shows.

Though Kelly and her fellow actors admit to being a little nervous, they're also ready for the show to open. Rehearsals started June 5, and participants have been rehearsing three hours a day Monday through Friday, along with some Saturdays.

"Right now, I'm just ecstatic to be able to perform the role," said Muller, who will play Dorothy.

At first, Muller said she was nervous about the role and "living up to Diana Ross," who played Dorothy in the film version of "The Wiz."

"It's the most amazing role I've ever been able to perform," said Muller, who joined Encore four years ago. "She is just a little girl who's been stripped away from home."

She likes seeing Dorothy change over the course of the play.

"She really is a very determined character," said Muller. "She will do anything to see The Wiz."

Miller will play that role.

"He's really crazy. Mental-in-the-head crazy," Miller said of The Wiz. "He is a little bit power-hungry. When he lands in Oz, he becomes their supreme ruler."

Conversely, the Cowardly Lion is "a big coward. He's a big scaredy-cat, but he puts on this act of arrogance," said Jackie Ovassapian, who will play the role while wearing a "huge afro."

"He's a funny guy," said Ovassapian, a Libertyville High School freshman.

Miller said the show takes a lot of energy.

"This one, for two hours, you have to pretend you had eight Red Bulls," he said.

The cast for "The Wiz" includes: Mia Akers, Tess Aumuller, Sarah Broughton, Avery Dulak, Trevor Evans, Emily Fagel, Zachary Ford, Marley Fredrickson, Ellie Frega, Jenna Grayson, Aliya Haddon, Hannah Hartung, Danie Kelly, Nicole Kelly, Lauren Kelly, Nick Kraus, Tessa Kruczek, Rachel Masloske, Grace Miller, Jack Miller, Ashley Muller, Johanna Nimmer, Haley Noll, Jackie Ovassapian, Phoebe Paslaski, Samantha Ross, Isabelle Rudolphi, Jake Rudolphi, McKenna Rudolphi, Erin Scheuneman, Kylie Skie, Taylor Skie, Hannah Smith, Kate Stelling, Ellie Stouffer, Hadley VanDerBosch and Fernanda Vega.

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