Some Omaha thespians have been anticipating this Friday for six months.
It’s opening night for “Morozko,” a musical play that’s being produced by the Ollie Webb Center’s Art of Imagination program. Omaha actor and musician Jill Anderson wrote the script with designer Brandon Mass, and Anderson is director. It’s based on a Russian folktale.
Auditions were held in June, and considerably more than half of the cast that emerged was made up of intellectually or developmentally disabled actors, giving them the opportunity to work with Omaha theater professionals, said Jim Hoggatt, artistic director for the center. They’ve been rehearsing since summer, and in October rehearsed nearly every day.
This is the second year they’ve done a show. The first one, also by Anderson, was based on an Irish folktale.
“We decided to stick to that formula,” Hoggatt said.
He said he’s seen huge improvements since last year. The disabled actors, many of whom are Ollie Webb regulars, can take daytime classes in several aspects of theater during the time leading up to the show.
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“Some came to the first rehearsal with their lines already memorized,” he said of the students. “They are consummate professionals.”
The play tells the story of a handsome young man who is under a spell that makes him look like a bear. To get his face back, he must perform good deeds. At the same time, his lady love is banished to the frozen lands of Morozko by her evil stepmother and stepsisters. Only true love can assure a happy ending.
Co-writer Mass also created all the props and costumes for the play.
“He’s really outdone himself,” Hoggatt said. A witch costume is “really fabulous,” he added, though he didn’t want to give away what makes it so.
People in the Ollie Webb classes worked alongside Mass to create puppets, costumes and other set pieces, participating in painting and construction.
Concert violinist Olga Smola is the music director and will perform in the show. Omaha theater regulars Susie Baer Collins, Grace Manley, Jesse Wohlman and Julia Williams are among the professional actors and musicians in the production.
It premieres at 7 p.m. Friday at the Scottish Rite Masonic Center, 202 S. 20th St., with additional shows at 7 p.m. Saturday and 6 p.m. Sunday. Tickets, $10, are available at bit.ly/2N2kBDy. The Sherwood Foundation, the Todd and Betiana Simon Foundation and the Bluestem Prairie Foundation are among those providing funds for the event.
Hoggatt is excited about the production.
“I’m feeling great about it,” he said. “The actors are terrific and the technical aspects are really strong.”