Following the Yellow Brick Road (WITH GALLERY)

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Paramount Players take on ‘The Wizard of Oz’

ASHLAND, Ky. — For more than eight decades, MGM’s film adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz” has delighted audiences young and old.

And it is that film version that serves as the basis for the Paramount Players’ production of the story this week, with a shared script and the use of Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg’s songs making an appearance.

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The Players kicked off their performances of the musical on Tuesday and another is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Paramount Arts Center, located at 1300 Winchester Ave. in Ashland.

Stepping into Judy Garland’s red slippers as Dorothy Gale for the show is Tatum Rooker, a veteran of Paramount Players productions, with credits including lead roles in “Madagacar” and “Cinderella.” Rooker delivers a lively performance as the girl from Kansas trying to find her way to the Emerald City.

Along the way she encounters the Scarecrow, with Shawn Thacker taking on Ray Bolger’s beloved character, as well as the Tin Man (Noah Brand) and the Cowardly Lion (Nathan Dennison).

The three also double as farm hands in Kansas before the twister take Dorothy to Oz.

Also in a dual role is Savannah Grady, as the Wicked Witch of the West, serving as the antagonist immortalized by Margaret Hamilton, as well as portraying Miss Gulch, Dorothy’s nemesis in Kansas.

Rounding out the main cast are Vinessa Fressola, as Aunt Em, Griffin James, as Uncle Henry, and Elijah Grubb as both Professor Marvel and the titular Wizard.

And accompanying Dorothy down the Yellow Brick Road is Toto, portrayed by local canine actor, Coal Grubb.

The cast is one of the larger of the Players’ productions, with dozens, in a wide range of ages, also serving as munchkins, Emerald City residents, flying monkeys and Winkie Guards.

The shows are directed by Matt Hammond, with Claire Wilson as assistant director.

Allison Keesee serves as stage manager, with Leslie Hammond as assistant.

Rick Payne, of Ironton, is artistic director for the show, as well as costume designer, while choreography is handled by Sarena Johnson.

Tickets range from $10-15. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and show begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased in person at the box office, online at or by calling 606-324-0007.