Wizard of Oz Live at Hononegah Performing Arts Center in Rockton, Ilinois


Dorothy and friends go into the woods in the Wizard of Oz. Photo: CYT Chicago

CYT Rockford presents the Wizard of Oz at Hononegah Performing Arts Center, 307 Salem Street in Rockton, on Friday night, Saturday afternoon and evening, and Sunday afternoon, May 12-14, 2023. 

The beloved classic 1939 movie comes to life onstage as it takes you "over the rainbow" with its heartwarming tale of love, courage, and friendship between animal, mineral, vegetable, and other.  Cast members are ages 8 to 18, some of them having appeared in more than a dozen musicals already.

In case you don't know the story: 

The Munchkin officials greet Dorothy (center), as Glinda (L) gives her the lay of the land.

After a tornado strikes Kansas, young Dorothy Gale (Ava Ellis) and her dog Toto are whisked away to the magical land of Oz. She teams up with a Scarecrow (Nate Kenrick), a Tin Woodsman (Olivia Van Hise), and a Cowardly Lion (Sofia Guevara) and follows the yellow brick road in search of the mighty Wizard of Oz (Solomon Rossman), the only person who could help her get home. With the Wicked Witch of the West (Emily Loner) right on her heels, will Dorothy make it back to her Aunt Em (Isabel Guevara) and Uncle Henry (Josh Rundblade)? Join Dorothy and her friends as they discover just how magical friendship can be and how there is no place like home.

Dorothy is played by Ava Ellis, a veteran actor, singer, and dancer from at least seven CYT shows. She was Mrs. Cratchit in A Christmas Carol, the orphan girl July in Annie Jr., the sneaky penguin Rico in Madagascar Jr., and the villainous Karen Plankton in The Spongebob Musical. She's versatile, whether shining in a dark forest or surprised by three dozen munchkins.

The Wicked Witch is brought to life (with special effects) by Emily Loner, who gleefully played The Ghost of Christmas Present in A Christmas Carol and lit up the stage in Madagascar Jr. as King Julien the self-appointed and self-important ruler of the lemurs. 

Emily Loner as the Wicked Witch

The Wizard is played by Solomon Rossman, whose notable roles include a dry, proper butler/clock named Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast. Nate Kenrick takes the role of the Scarecrow. Kenrick played the assistant butler to Rossman's butler in Beauty and the Beast, Bob Cratchitt in A Christmas Carol and Mason the Chimp in Madagascar Jr.

The Cowardly Lion is played by Sofia Guevara, another stand-out from Beauty and the Beast, about whom we observed at the time, "remains surprisingly bright and cheerful considering she is now a teapot." Isabel Guevara plays Glinda the Good Witch/ Dorothy's Aunt Em, having previously presented the role of Mrs. Gloop in Willy Wonka Jr.

In her biggest role yet, Olivia Van Hise is the soulful Tinman. She has had multiple ensemble parts in at least four shows, sometimes playing six roles in the same musical, as she tap-danced and sang in Annie Jr., Willy Wonka Jr., The Spongebob Musical,and Beauty and the Beast

Besides the named roles, the cast includes approximately 25 residents of the Emerald City of Oz (AKA Ozians) and approximately 32 munchkins. Besides various Forest Creatures, don't miss the Lullaby League, the Lollypop Guild, the flying Monkeys, the Winkies, the Poppies, and the Snowflakes. (Sounds like a music festival line-up from the 1960s.)


Several theatrical versions of L. Frank Baum's 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz have been produced, including several hit Broadway shows - The Wiz, Wicked, and a 1902 musical written by Baum himself, which toured America's heartland for years. But this may be the best version: a live show that closely follows the 1939 movie, music and all. In fact, it includes one extra song, "Jitterbug," that was cut from the movie because of time limits. This youth version is based on the 1987 Royal Shakespeare Company production.

Dates / Times:

  • Thursday, May 11th @ 9:30am
  • Thursday, May 11th @ 11:45am
  • Friday, May 12th @ 7:00pm
  • Saturday, May 13th @ 2:00pm
  • Saturday, May 13th @ 6:00pm
  • Sunday, May 14th @ 2:00pm


Dorothy: Ava Ellis
Scarecrow/Hulk: Nate Kenrick
Tinman/Hickory: Olivia Van Hise
Lion/Zeke: Sofia Guevara
Glinda/Aunt Em: Isabel Guevara
Wicked Witch/Ms. Gulch: Emily Loner
Wizard/Professor Marvel: Solomon Rossman

Isabel Guevara as Glinda

Uncle Henry: Josh Rundblade
Nikko: Cole Wellen
Mayor: Malachi Ellis
Coroner: Aleyah Bailey
Barrister: Lydia Derry
Palace Guard: Lauren Tibbets

EmmaGrace Butler
Noah Ceniseros
Lucia DeLay
Rayce Dempsey
Amelia Holmstrom
Paige Kohlmeier
Josh Rundblade
Isaiah Stauffer
Jackson Steiner
Cooper Wellen

Lullaby League:
Nora Nelsen
Selena Nelsen
Makenah Schwanebeck

Munchkins/Woodland Creatures:
Quinn Brothers
Kathleen Derry
Ethan Helgerson
Camille Juliano
Elise McLarty
Cruz Negrete
Makenah Schwanebeck
Lucy Schneiderman

Lollipop Guild:
Ethan Helgerson
Cruz Negrete
Kathleen Derry

Optimistic Voices:
Ella Hill
Kaylee Kramer
Molly Matuska
Grace McLarty
Eve Nelson
Adelaide Noble
Sophie Pauli
Talia Rossman
Kaitlynn Rundblade

Lucy Axe
MayBell Berkman
Anna Fager
Lorelai Fishe
Jordan Helgerson
Gabby Negrete
Gillian Nothnagel
Luke Paddock
Kate Schemel
Kelly Schemel
Lauren Tibbetts
Genny Vanderheiden
Cole Young 

The Wicked Witch with her Monkeys

Kinsley Beard
Paisley Brockett
Parker Brockett
Rebecca Dickey
Malachi Ellis
Nautica Marchese
Cole Wellen
JJ Wright 

Tornado/Cyclone Dancers:
Lucy Axe
Anna Fager
Jordan Helgerson
Gabby Negrete
Kate Schemel
Kelly Schemel

Aleyah Bailey
Brielle Bailey
Isabelle Butz
Lydia Derry
Lucy Ellerbroek
Harper Hoskinson
Nora Nelsen
Selena Nelsen
Natalie Noble
Demi Schuckman
Violet Thompson
Katelyn Wise 


Addison Beard
Addison Butz
Cami Fager
Juliannah Figueroa
Zoey Homola
Ava Johnston
Addison Laumer
Ruby Milsaps
Livvy Negrete
Noelle Nelsen
Isabelle Stauffer
Melody Wright


Noah Ceniseros
Addison Laumer
Gillian Nothnagel

Gabby Negrete
Kelly Schemel
Lorelai Fishe

About the company

Since 1980, CYT has become the largest children’s theater organization in the country with more than 38 locations in 25 different cities and enrolling 18,000 students annually. The Rockford chapter is part of CYT Chicago, which produces 18 of these musical theater productions each year in 10 different areas in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. Props, sets, and costumes come from CYT Chicago's warehouse in Cary, IL - from more than 40 different shows, and rentable for your next party.

CYT as a theater school offers classes in dance, improv, drama and/or singing to the public for various age levels from 8 to 18. Children ages 5-7 aren't in the big stage musicals, but Tune Town teaches them audition preparation, dance, acting, rhythm and singing.

The CYT Chicago Rockford Chapter usually produces one Broadway-style musical each session. Enrollment in CYT classes provides students (ages 8-18) the opportunity to audition for the current production.

Auditions typically consist of a one-minute song, with the possibility to learn and perform a short dance routine. The audition process may also include a “callback” in which a student may be asked to read for a speaking role in the play. Auditions help students to gain self-confidence and to show the best of their talents.

Students not cast in the show are encouraged to participate in other ways. Depending on age and ability, students (and siblings) can participate on the backstage crew, technical team, or the costume and makeup committees. Some young people take part of a dozen shows or more by the time they turn 18.

In the words of the Optimistic Voices:

You're out of the woods
You're out of the dark
You're out of the night
Step into the sun,
Step into the light
Keep straight ahead
For the most glorious place
On the face of the earth or the sky
Hold onto your breath
Hold onto your heart
Hold onto your hope
March up to the gate
And bid it open

Photo: CYT Chicago
More News from Rockton
I'm interested
I disagree with this
This is unverified