Bonzi Productions offers 'Wizard of Oz' July 22-24

My wife Michele and I have been involved with Starlight Theatre for more than 16 years, both on stage and behind the scenes. We branched off a couple years ago and began directing at Pec Playhouse and performing at New American Theater. We also have been teaching numerous drama camps and classes for the past five years. Recently, we started our very own theater group, a dream we’ve had for a long time.

Our theater group—Bonzi Productions Theatre Group—will be doing the full-blown musical The Wizard of Oz July 22-24 at the beautiful and under-utilized Hononegah Performing Arts Center. We wanted to be able to offer another theater venue for families, to complement and work with Starlight.

We’ve had great support from friends, the community, and the families of our cast. We were blessed by the kindness of Dave Diamond at DPS Inc., Dr. Anthony Benassi D.D.S., and Chellis French, as they stepped forward playing the role of our initial sponsors, allowing us to begin this journey.

We also offer affordable theater for patrons, with ticket prices $7 for adults and $5 for students and seniors. Just more than 90 people auditioned, and we cast just more than 70 of them, including adults, children, and a dog (Toto).

We have great people involved, from NAT actors to Starlight veterans to lawyers and theater veterans to a 5-year-old in her first production. Michele is directing the show, and I am playing the role of the Scarecrow—a role I have always wanted to do. Other cast members include: Cassie Johnson as Dorothy, B.J. Morales as the Tin Man, Doug Rappa as the Cowardly Lion, Roger Deschepper as The Wizard of Oz, and Jack Newton as Uncle Henry.

Choreographed by the amazing Jill Beardsley, with extra bonus material from her husband, Doug, and musical arrangement by the always clever Kevin Jensen. The cast is from all around—Byron, Belvidere, Rockford, Caledonia, Rockton, Roscoe, etc. Cast members not only get to participate in a live, beloved musical, but they also get to learn many aspects of theater throughout the process.

This production follows the movie storyline, but you’ll also learn more about Frank Baum’s original ideas from his book. Your children will love this fun-filled classic, and I’m sure you’ll fall in love with it all over again. Tickets are available by calling 394-8987.

From the June 15-21, 2005, issue

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