Follow the yellow brick road to Take a Bow Youth Theater’s new show

Nov 11, 2023

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, but pay very close attention to the women behind Take a Bow Youth Theater, who spend months teaching, choreographing and designing each musical. 

The Dartmouth-based theater will ring in December with three performances of “The Wizard of Oz.”

The musical includes 49 young actors from across the South Coast and one very good dog. It’s the largest cast Take a Bow has ever had. 

“We try to pick musicals that have a good number of leads as well as supporting characters,” said  Marianne Oien, the show’s co-director. “We try to give as much stage time as possible.”

Oien, a former music teacher from Quinn Elementary, started Take a Bow after her retirement, alongside co-director and choreographer Michele Dreher, who grew up dancing with the Cheryl McCormack Academy of Dance and continues to teach there. 

Oien also organized performances at the Quinn school, which Dreher and costume designer Joyce Clough helped put on. 

Parent volunteers help with creating some of the set and props, but the costumes for the 49 kids, some of whom play multiple parts, largely come down to Clough and her assistant Rachel Poisson. 

Clough said it’s hard to say exactly how many costumes she made for “The Wizard of Oz,” but her house “is loaded with costumes right now.”

“Every day I do a little bit,” Clough said. “I can’t procrastinate … every day I try to do some.”

Clough said she finds many components of costumes at thrift shops, such as the hats that the mean apple trees wear, which she covered in vines and attached removable apples to. 

“[Oien] is doing what she loves and [Dreher] is doing what she loves with the dance,” Clough said. “And I do get excited with the costumes — sometimes I get overwhelmed, but I do get excited.”

The school takes actors from 2nd grade to 8th grade, which means performers are at all different acting levels. 

“You have to have a lot of patience with the little ones, but also the older ones … they get a little chatty as they get older,” Dreher said. “We try to give everyone an opportunity with so many lines.”

The broad age range means that kids have an opportunity to come back year after year, aging up through the theater company. 

The young performers also develop their acting, dancing and singing skills over that time. Dreher said some of the kids in the company came in too nervous to even get through the audition, but “now they’re here and you would never have known that they were afraid to sing and dance and act.”

Julian Lazaro, who plays the Cowardly Lion, said he performs with Take a Bow because he loves acting, and is now hoping to pursue theater further as he grows up. 

Ellie Delmonico, Dreher’s niece and Dorothy in the show, said her school doesn’t have a theater program, so she likes having a chance to participate elsewhere. 

On the other hand, Olivia Scott, who plays the Tin Man, also performs with Dartmouth Middle School’s drama class (including the upcoming “Cinderella” production). She appreciates that “The Wizard of Oz” allows for more dancing, but she also just likes spending time with her friends at Take a Bow. 

For Charlie Lond, who plays Scarecrow, Take a Bow is all about developing his skills: “I love acting and being in the theater group really makes me a better actor,” he said.

To Dreher, that kind of reaction from young actors is exactly why Take a Bow exists in the first place: “I just want to make sure they have fun while they’re doing it,” she said. 

“To see them go to high school and become part of the drama club,” Dreher said. “That makes it awesome when they do that because you know that what you did really stuck with them and they had fun doing it.”

Performances take place on Friday, Dec. 1 at 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 3 at 2 p.m. All performances will be held at Westport Middle-High School Auditorium: 400 Old County Road, Westport. Tickets cost $15 per person, general seating.