Yellow Brick Road comes to Brainerd: BHS to put on ‘The Wizard of Oz’

The musical will run April 21-24.

Group shot of cast and crew members
The cast and crew for the Brainerd High School rendition of "The Wizard of Oz" is made of up of 55 people, including six elementary students playing munchkins.
Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — A classic tale is hitting the stage at the Gichi-ziibi Center for the Arts later this month when Brainerd High School students put on “The Wizard of Oz.”

Dorothy, Glenda, the Wicked Witch of the West and all their comrades will sing, dance and entertain audiences with their rendition of the old favorite.

“We really wanted a show that would interest all age groups,” Theater Director Karla Johnson said.

While the play will be similar to the 1939 movie starring Judy Garland, there will be one element that may be new to audience members — “Jitterbug.”
“It was originally in the film, but it was cut,” Johnson said. “... So unless they watched some of the unedited versions, they might not be familiar with ‘Jitterbug.’”

Senior Abby Pratt also plans to put her own flair on the musical’s leading lady.


“For one, Judy Garland and I have different voices,” Pratt said with a laugh. “So I’m singing the songs a little bit different than her, just pitchwise.

“... And if I think that this is how Dorothy would react, I react the way I want to rather than copying what the original Dorothy does. I just make the reactions my own.”

Dorothy is Pratt’s first leading role and the one she was hoping to get when she auditioned.

“I’m really enjoying the songs,” she said. “I mean, ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ is a classic, and I’m really honored that I get to sing that.”

While junior Jayley Andresen has been acting since her freshman year of high school, her part as the Wicked Witch of the West in this spring’s musical is her first shot at playing a villain.

“I’ve really been just tapping into the classic villain vibe, not trying to, like, bring a good backstory,” Andresen said. “... I feel like it’s best played just straight-up mean for not really any reason at all.”

And though it’s an adjustment from her more typically silly, comedic characters, Andresen is having a lot of fun with the role and using it as a stress reliever.

As Andresen and Pratt can draw on past theater experience for their performances — even if they were vastly different roles — senior Barrett Rezac is in a much different position.


He didn’t actually plan on auditioning for the show, but a chance encounter in the hallway changed that. “I was talking to one of my teachers, and I have a habit of singing sometimes just randomly,” he said. “And Ms. Johnson was turning a corner. She heard me, she turned around, and she basically pulled me aside and was like, ‘You need to do this. You need to audition for the play.’”

Rezac figured he’d give it a shot, as it’s his last year of high school, and ended up landing one of the lead roles.

He plays both Uncle Henry and the wizard’s guard in Oz, two vastly different characters. Where Dorothy’s Uncle Henry is blunt, stern and incredibly family-oriented, the guard is goofy and clumsy, yet passionate about his job.

“I think there’s a point in that in the play because, obviously they’re the same person because Dorothy gets knocked out,” Rezac said. “... I think that in her imagination she’s imagining Henry as this polar opposite of his actual character, this goofy guy. But he still has his motives straight. He just expresses them in a different way, which I think is really cool.”

Also joining the musical’s cast are six elementary school students playing munchkins, led by Spanish teacher Britt Qualley as the head munchkin.

And not to be forgotten is Dorothy’s faithful pooch Toto, played by the very real dog Gypsy, pet of a high school teacher. While Gypsy might not be a trained actress, she’s very motivated by treats Pratt keeps on hand in the pockets of her Dorothy dress.

“We have a really talented cast and really talented and fun group of people, and I think that you’d really like it if you come see it,” Pratt said of the show.

A full orchestra and 22-person tech crew will accompany the 33 actors, who will perform the first musical on the main stage at the Gichi-ziibi Center for the Arts.


“I’m very excited for the tech crew members because there are a lot of special effects that we can utilize now with this show, and we just didn’t have that capability previously at Tornstrom or in the little theater,” Johnson said.

‘The Wizard of Oz’

What: Brainerd High School spring musical.

When: 7 p.m. April 21-23, 2 p.m. April 24.

Where: Gichi-ziibi Center for the Arts.

Other details: Tickets are $6 for students and senior citizens, and $9 for adults.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at .

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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