It’s a story that’s been retold ad infinitum. “Frank L. Baum’s Wizard Of Oz is not just a story or a classic, it is a common thread that has been passed from one generation to another, having gone through multitudes of narrations and interpretations," says Zulfia Shaikh, the founder of the Bangalore School of Speech and Drama, which teaches communication, speech and drama to children.

Having performed numerous plays since 2001, Shaikh has based the school’s new play on this classic story, because “it has survived the test of time and is still as relevant".

“I was looking for a script to perform, and then stumbled upon the Wizard Of Oz. The characters are enduring, and the story has a meaning for everybody, be it a child or an adult," says Shaikh, who graduated in effective communication and drama and started working on the play in May.

Baum’s 1900 novel chronicles the adventures of young Dorothy in the Land of Oz, after she is swept away from her Kansas farm home in a cyclone. When Dorothy drops into the Land of Oz, only one thing is certain: She’s got to find her way back to Kansas. A funny and fast-paced journey down the yellow brick road ensues as Dorothy and her new friends travel to the fabled Emerald City to meet the Great Oz to fulfil their wishes. During her journey she makes friends with a lion, a scarecrow and a tin-man, and faces challenges, including the Wicked Witch of the West.

Shaikh has not modified the story. “In stories like Ali Baba, we completely changed the script. But in a classic like this, it is more like a retelling of the story, rather than putting up my own interpretations," she says.

Riddhi Bhatt, a 13-year-old student of Inventure Academy School, Bangalore, who is playing the role of Dorothy, echoes Shaikh. “Sometimes it’s good to make the play more suitable to the place where it is being staged; however, children like me would learn more from classic stories like Wizard Of Oz if they are shown like they are," she says. “In fact I also learnt about the importance of friendship and family, and how important it is to stick to your goals, while playing the character," she adds.

After Peter Pan, it is the grandest play mounted by the school in terms of cast and crew, props and grandeur. Shaikh is working with a team of 80 children, ages 5-18. The music, she says, is taken from the book and from the 1902 Broadway musical. “There is magic, fighting, adventure, action—basically everything in this play. A special focus has been given to the costumes of the characters, and that the Emerald City should look exactly like in books."

Shaikh hopes that it will help the children learn about this great story, while adults will revisit their memories. “When the children see that the lion, which is always believed to be courageous and strong, is afraid of a mouse, it will open their young minds to a new dimension. The adults, however, will learn that we all are passing through the yellow brick road, worrying about things that we already possess, much like the characters of the play," says Shaikh.

The Wizard Of Oz will be performed on 27 June, 7pm, and 28 June, 11am and 7pm, at Chowdiah Memorial Hall, 16th Cross, GD Park Extension, 2nd Main Road, Malleswaram, Bangalore. Tickets, 250-1,000, available at www.bookmyshow.com

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