Once upon a time, and somewhere over the rainbow, there is a land called Oz.
Created by L. Frank Baum 111 years ago, its story is part of American mythology. Author Gregory Maguire reimagined it from the point of view of the witches, and explored the true nature of wickedness.
The story was subsequently streamlined into a musical by Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman.
Submitted Photo - - Whitney Sivertson presents Glinda, the witch of the north, left, alongside Carson Fuchs as Elphaba, the witch of the west, in Studio X - A New Generation of Dance’s tribute production to the hit Broadway musical “Wicked.”
And in two shows on Saturday at Ann Nicole Nelson Hall at Minot State University, Studio X - A New Generation of Dance will be presenting homage to that work with "Wicked, The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz, A Dance Tribute to the Smash Broadway Musical."
"It's something I've wanted to do since I first saw it," said Studio X owner and artistic director Josh Wise.
Wise spent quite a bit of time figuring out the best way to make the story comprehensible with dance and music alone -- and without infringing copyright.
"Let's say I've spoken often with their lawyers," he said.
Wise solved the problem of staging a current hit musical not yet released for amateur productions by having the principal dancers lip sync to some of the numbers and provide additional dialogue.
Since he's not doing the actual production, he took advantage to add some "Wizard-mania" to introduce many dance styles, such as jazz, hip hop, ballet, lyrical and tap.
"All of our students will be on stage," he said. "That's about 125 kids."
The witches are Whitney Sivertson as Glinda, witch of the north and Carson Fuchs as Elphaba, the witch of the west.
"There's a tribute to the author in that name," Fuchs said. "It comes from his initials, LFB."
Both dancers are clear about the theme.
"It's the friendship between Glinda and Elphaba," Fuchs said. "They start off hating each other, then become friends. You'll see it's a misunderstanding that makes one good and one evil."
"You don't get to see what the characters are in the 'Wizard of Oz,'" Sivertson said. "It's just a normal relationship. Just because one is green and dorky doesn't mean she can't be a friend."
Fuchs is the green one, and said, "It's not easy being green. The character is, well ... it's hard to be awkward on stage when I've spent all this time learning to be graceful. Josh keeps telling me, 'You have to make this ugly.'
"That's probably the hardest part," she said. "That and remembering to lip sync while I'm dancing."
Sivertson agreed. "The dancing's not that hard, but the costume changes and special effects make it difficult," she said. "But I get to wear that gorgeous gown in the beginning, just like in the movie."
There are four additional major roles, danced by Lexi Delvo, Briahnna Johnson, Jocelyn McCormack and Olivia Christmas. The younger ones are Munchkins and townspeople, and there is a whole corps of adorable flying monkeys.
Wise is anxious for Minot to see the production.
"This will change your idea about Oz, and it's really the most excited I've been about a production in about three years,"?he said. "It's been particularly challenging because of the flood, of course. So many of our kids are in FEMA trailers, it's a real tribute to their parents to keep them at the studio. I admire the resilience of Minot, I really do."
Fuchs and Sivertson expressed their appreciation for Wise.
"He's put so much into this show and us," Fuchs said. "He's mentored both of us. Usually we get a senior show, but didn't this year."
"He's helped both of us a lot," Sivertson added.
The show is at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., with tickets priced at $15 for premium seating, and $10 for regular seats.