Before she burst onto the big screen as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Judy Garland was a young vaudeville trouper named Frances Gumm. In this highly anticipated new musical chronicling Garland’s early career from vaudeville baby to MGM teen star in the making, the road to Oz is paved with adversity. At its heart a story of love between a father and daughter, featuring such legendary songs as “Over the Rainbow,” “You Made Me Love You,” and “Everybody Sing,” Chasing Rainbows is a poignant coming-of-age tale about “the little girl with the big voice,” who went on to become one of the world’s most beloved entertainment icons.
The show has already earned praise from Liza Minnelli, who said, “My mother said that her biography is in her music, and now a talented creative team is using that music to tell the story of her early years and her extraordinary rise to fame.”
Paper Mill Playhouse, recipient of the Regional Theatre Tony Award, presents the New Jersey premiere of Chasing Rainbows: The Road to Oz with a book by Marc Acito, musical adaptation & additional music by David Libby and conceived by and additional lyrics by Tina Marie Casamento. Chasing Rainbows: The Road to Oz begins performances Thursday, Sep 26, and will continue through Sunday, Oct 27. Bank of America is the major sponsor for Chasing Rainbows: The Road to Oz. Paper Mill Playhouse’s 2019—2020 season is proudly sponsored by Investors Bank. Opening Night is set for Sunday, Oct 6, 2019, at 7:00PM.
Directed and choreographed by Tony award nominee Denis Jones, with music direction by Lawrence Yurman, the principal cast features Ruby Rakos (Billy Elliot) as Judy Garland/Frances Gumm, Tony Award nominee Max Von Essen (An American in Paris, Paper Mill’s The Baker’s Wife) as Frank Gumm, Olivier Award-winner Lesli Margherita (Matilda, Dames at Sea) as Ethel Gumm, Karen Mason (Mamma Mia!, And the World Goes ‘Round) as Ma Lawlor/Kay Koverman, Stephen DeRosa (Into the Woods, HBO’s Boardwalk Empire) as Louis B. Mayer, Michael Wartella (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Tuck Everlasting) as Mickey Rooney, and Colin Hanlon (ABC’s “Modern Family”, Paper Mill’s Benny & Joon) as Roger Edens.
Rounding out the cast are Tia Altinay, Mackenzie Bell, Kristen Grace Brown, Lamont Brown, Joe Cassidy, Clara Cox, Tessa Grady, Sophie Knapp (Teaneck, NJ), Molly Lyons, Kimberly Immanuel, Christina Maxwell, Kevin B. McGlynn, Allsun O’Malley, Samantha Joy Pearlman, Drew Redington, Joshua J. Schwartz, Parker Slaybaugh, Sean Thompson, Violet Tinnirello, and Kathy Voytko (Bloomfield, NJ).
The production team includes scenic design by Alexander Dodge, costume design by Linda Cho, lighting design by Japhy Weideman, sound design by Matt Kraus, projection design by Peter Nigrini, hair and wig design by Charles G. LaPointe, and makeup design by Dena Olivieri. John Fricke serves as creative consultant. The production stage manager is Bonnie Panson. Casting is by Tara Rubin Casting.
Chasing Rainbows: The Road to Oz will be performed at Paper Mill Playhouse eight times a week, Wed—Sun. Performance schedule: Wednesday at 7:30PM, Thursday at 1:30PM and 7:30PM, Friday at 8:00PM, Saturday at 1:30PM and 8:00PM, and Sunday at 1:30PM and 7:00PM. Season subscriptions are on sale now. Individual tickets go on sale Monday, Aug 19, starting at $34. Groups of 10 or more may receive up to a 40% discount. Students may order $23-$28 rush tickets over the phone or in person at the Paper Mill Playhouse Box Office on the day of the performance.
“If you grew up watching The Wizard of Oz, it’s almost impossible to imagine that movie with anyone else but Judy Garland as Dorothy,” commented the show’s conceiver Tina Marie Casamento, a member of the theater faculty at New Jersey’s Rider University.
RUBY RAKOS (Judy Garland/Frances Gumm), a Long Hill, New Jersey native, is thrilled to be making her Paper Mill Playhouse debut with Chasing Rainbows! Broadway: Billy Elliot (Tracey Atkinson). Regional: The House on the Hill (world premiere, CATF), Chasing Rainbows (Flat Rock Playhouse, Goodspeed Musicals). She is a graduate of the Professional Performing Arts School in Manhattan.
MAX VON ESSEN (Frank Gumm). Paper Mill: The Baker’s Wife, My Fair Lady. Broadway: Anastasia, An American in Paris (Tony, Drama Desk, Grammy nominations), Evita, Les Misérables (revival), Dance of the Vampires, Jesus Christ Superstar, closing company of the original Les Misérables. NY: Yours Unfaithfully, The Dreyfuss Affair, Death Takes a Holiday, Hello Again, Jerry Springer: The Opera, Finian’s Rainbow. Tours: Falsettos, Xanadu, Chicago, West Side Story. TV/Film: “Law & Order: SVU,” “Elementary,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “The Good Wife,” “Royal Pains,” “Gossip Girl,” “Seven Lovers,” Sex and the City 2, “Submissions Only” (web series). Debut album, Call Me Old Fashioned, now available.
LESLI MARGHERITA (Ethel Gumm), an Olivier Award winner for her West End debut as Inez in Zorro The Musical, Lesli made her Broadway debut as Mrs. Wormwood in Matilda The Musical. She played Mona Kent in the Broadway premiere of Dames at Sea. Off-Broadway, she played Cindy Lou Who in Who’s Holiday!, earning Drama Desk, Lortel and Off-Broadway Alliance nominations. She recently starred opposite Yvette Nicole Brown in the ABC sitcom pilot “Most Likely To”. She played recurring roles on “Homeland” (Showtime), “Instinct” (CBS), and “Seven Seconds” (Netflix). She starred opposite Topher Grace, Taye Diggs & JC Chasez in the feature film Opening Night available on Netflix and iTunes
KAREN MASON (Ma Lawlor, Kay Koverman) received the 2019 MAC Lifetime Achievement Award and has won twelve MAC Awards, including six consecutive Female Vocalist of the Year awards, among numerous other honors. Theatrical credits include Madame Giry in Love Never Dies (North American premiere tour), Tanya in the original cast of Mamma Mia! (Drama Desk nomination), Norma in Sunset Boulevard, Queen of Hearts in Wonderland, Velma in Hairspray, And the World Goes ’Round (Outer Critics Circle Award), and many more. Karen has headlined Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, Feinstein’s/54 Below, Birdland, and venues around the world. Her acclaimed recordings include the singles “It’s About Time,” an anthem for marriage equality, and “Hold Me” (Daytime Emmy Award).
STEPHEN DeROSA (Louis B. Mayer). Broadway: Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus, On the Town, Betrayal, The Nance, Hairspray, Twentieth Century, Henry IV, Into the Woods, The Man Who Came to Dinner. National Tour: West Side Story. Off-Broadway: The Government Inspector (Red Bull Theater), These Paper Bullets! (Atlantic Theater Company), Love’s Fire (The Acting Company), The Mystery of Irma Vep. Regional credits include Arena Stage, Yale Rep, McCarter Theatre, Westport Country Playhouse, Cape Playhouse, George Street Playhouse, Berkshire Theatre Group. Selected Film/TV: The Blacklist, Café Society, The Deuce, Vinyl, Divorce, The Good Wife, and as Eddie Cantor on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. MFA, Yale Drama.
MICHAEL WARTELLA (Mickey Rooney) is excited to be making his Paper Mill debut! Broadway/National Tours: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Tuck Everlasting, Wicked. Off-Broadway: Rent (New World Stages), The Kid (The New Group), Seussical (TheatreWorksUSA), Oliver Twist (TFANA). Regional: Chasing Rainbows (Flat Rock Playhouse, Goodspeed Musicals), Midsummer, A Prayer for Owen Meany, (Denver Center Theatre Company). Film/TV: Mysteries of Laura, Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet, Loving Leah.
COLIN HANLON (Roger Edens) recently appeared at Paper Mill as Mike in Benny & Joon. He appears on “Modern Family” as Steven and has had guest starring roles on “Difficult People,” “The Sinner,” “The Good Fight,” and in the upcoming film Yes. Coproducer and star of the web series Submissions Only (Stage Network). New York premieres: Dot (Vineyard, dir. Susan Stroman), A. R. Gurney’s Final Follies (Cherry Lane, dir. David Saint). Broadway: Falsettos, Rent, Wicked (tour), In Transit. Four shows at George Street Playhouse, most recently The Nerd (dir. Kevin Cahoon); four seasons at NYS&F and the O’Neill; Next Fall (St. Louis Rep). Off-Broadway includes I Love You Because and Pirates of Penzance.
MARC ACITO (Book) authored the Broadway musical Allegiance, which NY Newsday recognized for its “well-structured book” and “fully-developed characters.” Acito’s comedy Birds of a Feather won the Helen Hayes Award for Best New Play. He won the Ken Kesey Award for his novel How I Paid for College, then adapted it as a one-man musical. Coming up: a musical in Mandarin for Broadway Asia in Beijing; and The Secrets of the Universe (and Other Songs) about the relationship between Albert Einstein and Marian Anderson, part of a trilogy about science and ethics. Proud member of the Dramatists Guild, MENSA, and Weight Watchers.
DAVID LIBBY (Musical Adaptation, Additional Music, Orchestrations, Dance & Vocal Arrangements) is a composer, arranger, and music director. Theater credits include Music Director for the Off-Broadway production of Play it Cool (Outstanding New Musical nominee, Outer Critics Circle) and keyboards on the National Tours of Beauty and the Beast and Kiss Me Kate (2001 revival). David composes music for film and digital media, his credits including Mister Green (Best Short Film, London Sci-Fi Festival), Super Power Blues (PBS affiliate WNET People’s Choice Award), and online episodes of Marvel Entertainment’s “The Incredible Hulk” and “Spiderman.” BA, Bowdoin College. MM Jazz Studies, Rutgers University.
TINA MARIE CASAMENTO (Conceiver, Additional Lyrics) is a director, teacher, producer and actress with over 30 years-experience in the industry who is passionate about creating inspired and emotionally compelling theatre. Tina Marie conceived/wrote the treatment for Chasing Rainbows, leading to a development deal with Sony/ATV Music Publishing. Tina Marie attended Carnegie Mellon University (acting), and University of Maryland (full scholarship in Creative and Performing Arts). Committed to nurturing young talent, she is on staff at Rider University in Lawrenceville, NJ, and teaches master classes and workshops throughout the country. She served as chair and national adjudicator in Theatre for YoungArts, and is a recipient of the Teacher Recognition Award by the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program.
DENIS JONES (Director & Choreographer) Paper Mill Playhouse: Holiday Inn, Mary Poppins, Honeymoon in Vegas, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Damn Yankees, The Full Monty, High School Musical, Meet Me in St. Louis. Broadway: *Tootsie, *Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn (*Tony Award nominations for best choreography), Honeymoon in Vegas. Other recent credits: How to Succeed… (Kennedy Center); Hey, Look Me Over! And Paint Your Wagon (NY City Center Encores!); Crazy for You (Signature—Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Choreography); Thoroughly Modern Millie (Goodspeed); The Wiz and 42nd Street (Muny—St. Louis Theater Circle Award for Outstanding Choreography); Moonshine: That Hee-Haw Musical (Dallas Theater Center); A Funny Thing…Forum (Two River/Williamstown).
LARRY BLANK (Orchestrations) is a three-time Tony nominee for his orchestrations on Catch Me If You Can, White Christmas, and The Drowsy Chaperone. He has received six Drama Desk Award nominations for A Christmas Story, Honeymoon in Vegas, Catch Me If You Can, The Drowsy Chaperone, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, and Fiddler on the Roof. He was co-orchestrator for the stage and film versions of The Producers and provided orchestrations for the film version of Chicago. He orchestrates and conducts the Olivier Awards in London. Most recently Larry orchestrated and conducted FX’s Fosse/Verdon. He composed, arranged, and orchestrated Dolly Parton’s latest project, Christmas on the Square, for Warner Brothers.
LAWRENCE YURMAN (Music Director) is a pianist, arranger and conductor with over 30 years of experience on Broadway and beyond. Notable Broadway appearances include the 2018 revival of The Iceman Cometh (onstage pianist), War Paint (music director/conductor) starring Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (music director/arranger) starring Harry Connick, Jr., It Shoulda Been You, and Grey Gardens. He has performed extensively with Christine Ebersole and Lea Salonga in NYC, across the country, and abroad. Larry is pleased to be making his Paper Mill debut with this show.
ALEXANDER DODGE (Scenic Design). Paper Mill: The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Importance of Being Earnest, Master Class. Broadway: Anastasia (Outer Critics Circle nomination), A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder (Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle nominations), Present Laughter (Tony nomination), Old Acquaintance, Butley, Hedda Gabler. Recent Off-Broadway and regional: Harry Clarke (Minetta Lane/Audible), the premiere of the musical The Flamingo Kid choreographed by Denis Jones (Hartford Stage). Opera: Samson et Dalila (Metropolitan Opera), The Thirteenth Child (Santa Fe Opera), Ghosts of Versailles (LA Opera), Dinner at Eight (Minnesota and Wexford), Il trittico (Deutsche Oper Berlin), and Lohengrin (Budapest). MFA, Yale.
LINDA CHO (Costume Design). Broadway: Anastasia (Tony nomination), A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder (Tony Award, Henry Hewes Award, Outer Critics Circle nomination), The Lifespan of a Fact, Velocity of Autumn. Her extensive body of work includes productions at acclaimed theaters and opera companies across the country and around the world. She served as the American costume design curator for the International Prague Quadrennial; received TDF’s Irene Sharaff Young Master Award; was honored with the Ruth Morley Design Award from the League of Professional Theatre Women; and is currently on the advisory committee for the American Theatre Wing. MFA, Yale School of Drama.
JAPHY WEIDEMAN (Lighting Design). Paper Mill: The Sting. Broadway: Dear Evan Hansen, The Visit, The Nance, Of Mice and Men, and Airline Highway, all received Tony Award nominations for best lighting design. Other Broadway: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Bright Star, Lobby Hero, Sylvia, Old Times, The Heidi Chronicles, Macbeth (Drama Desk nomination), Cyrano de Bergerac, The Snow Geese. Extensive Off-Broadway, opera, and international productions. Up next is Dear Evan Hansen on London’s West End.
MATT KRAUS (Sound Design). Broadway: Liza’s at the Palace…, Kristin Chenoweth: My Love Letter to Broadway, Kathy Griffin Wants a Tony. Off-Broadway: Caucasian Chalk Circle, 50 Shades! The Musical Parody, Forbidden Broadway, Voca People. Audio coordinator for remote shoots at “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” Regional: Paper Mill Playhouse (Beauty and the Beast, Holiday Inn, Lend Me a Tenor, Newsies), St. Louis Rep, Cincinnati Playhouse, Walnut Street, and more. Matt has also played the world’s most prestigious venues: Hollywood Bowl, Hampton Court Palace, Olympia in Paris, Sydney Opera House, Monte Carlo Sporting Club, and Vienna State Opera House. Matt won a Daytime Emmy for his work on Disney’s Broadway Hits at Royal Albert Hall.
PETER NIGRINI (Projection Design). Broadway: Beetlejuice, Ain’t Too Proud, Sponge Bob, Dear Evan Hansen, Amelie, and A Doll’s House, Part 2, among others. Other recent designs of note include Here Lies Love at the Public Theater, for which he won the first Drama Desk awarded for projection, and also at the Public Theater Grounded for which he won the first Lucille Lortel awarded for projection.
CHARLES G. LAPOINTE (Hair & Wig Design). Paper Mill Playhouse: Newsies, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Holiday Inn, The Sting, The Color Purple, 1776. Numerous Broadway, touring, West End, and international productions including Hamilton, The Cher Show (Drama Desk Award), The Band’s Visit, Beautiful, Ain’t Too Proud, Beetlejuice, The Lifespan of a Fact, SpongeBob SquarePants (Drama Desk Award), Jersey Boys, Motown, Memphis, On Your Feet!, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, The Color Purple, Newsies, In the Heights. Television: “The Wiz Live!” (Emmy Award nomination), “Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert” (Emmy Award nomination, Make-Up Artists & Hair Stylists Guild Award), Hairspray.
DENA OLIVIERI (Makeup Design) is thrilled and honored to join the creative team of Chasing Rainbows at Paper Mill Playhouse, following her Paper Mill debut with Disney’s Beauty and the Beast this past spring. She won best makeup in the Rhode Island BroadwayWorld Awards for her Beauty and the Beast makeup design in 2017.
TARA RUBIN CASTING (Casting). Previous Paper Mill: The Sting, Bandstand, A Bronx Tale, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Can-Can, Les Misérables 25th Anniversary Tour. Selected Broadway: King Kong, Summer, Prince of Broadway, Indecent, Bandstand, Sunset Boulevard, Miss Saigon, Dear Evan Hansen, A Bronx Tale, Cats, Falsettos, Disaster!, School of Rock, Les Misérables, The Heiress, The Phantom of the Opera, Billy Elliot, Shrek, Spamalot, …Spelling Bee, The Producers, Mamma Mia!, Jersey Boys. Off-Broadway: Jersey Boys; Here Lies Love; Old Jews Telling Jokes; Love, Loss, and What I Wore. Regional: Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Yale Repertory Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, Old Globe, Asolo Rep.
JOHN FRICKE (Creative Consultant) is the preeminent Judy Garland and The Wizard of Oz authority. He’s written seven books on those topics and received Emmy Awards for co-producing Garland documentaries for PBS and A&E. As creator and consultant for Oz/Garland projects, John has worked with (among others) Warner Bros., TCM, Turner Entertainment, the Smithsonian, EMI, and Sony. He delivers the commentary tracks on eight Garland DVD releases, including Oz; he’s appeared multiple times on Today, TCM, CNN, NPR; and he’s lectured at Lincoln Center, the Paley Center, MOMA, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and the Deauville Film Festival.
BONNIE PANSON (Production Stage Manager). Broadway: Over 25 shows including Anastasia; Gigi; Bring It On; Spider-Man; Chicago; Dance of the Vampires; Seussical; Bring in ’da Noise, Bring in ’da Funk; Kiss of the Spider Woman; Starlight Express; The Pirates of Penzance. Off-Broadway: Trip of Love, The Last Five Years, directed by Jason Robert Brown. Regional credits include Hartford Stage, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, and four seasons at the Muny in St. Louis. Adjunct professor at Columbia University in the School of the Arts MFA program.
Accessibility Performances for Chasing Rainbows: The Road to Oz
Paper Mill Playhouse, a leader in accessibility, will offer audio-described performances for Chasing Rainbows: The Road to Oz on Sunday, Oct 20, at 1:30PM and Saturday, Oct 26, 2019, at 1:30PM. Prior to these performances at noon, the theater will offer free sensory seminars. Sensory seminars offer an opportunity for patrons with vision loss to hear a live, in-depth description of the production elements of the show and hands-on interaction with key sets, props, and costumes. There will be a sign-interpreted and open-captioned performance on Sunday, Oct 27, at 7PM.
Free Audience Enrichment Activities for Chasing Rainbows: The Road to Oz
CONVERSATION CLUB: Join us Thursday evenings, Sep 26, Oct 3, 10, and 17 one hour before curtain for an informal, informative gathering. You’ll learn more about the performance you’re about to see.
THE DIRECTOR’S VIEWPOINT: One hour before curtain on Wednesday, Oct 2, a pre-show discussion with the show’s director in the Renee Foosaner Art Gallery.
Q&A WITH THE CAST: After the matinee on Saturday, Oct 26, stick around for a lively Q&A with cast members directly following the performance.