By Tom Tolen /

Despite a winter storm Thursday night that dumped 6 inches of snow on the area, a Brighton High School theater production will open as scheduled this evening that’s guaranteed to please young and old alike.

The Wizard of Oz, which in its original 1939 film production catapulted Judy Garland to fame, is showing tonight, tomorrow and Sunday, and again the following weekend. The musical director in the production is Phil Johnson, who also is the director of the four Brighton High School choirs and the and Scranton Middle School choir.

The Wizard of Oz is a production of the Brighton High School Musical Theater, which has staged a plethora of memorable musicals over the years, including Newsies, Pippin, Robin Hood, White Christmas, Grease, Beauty and the Beast, and Alice in Wonderland, among others. Those who have attended have often remarked that the musicals are, in essence, professional productions under the guise of a high school play. The Brighton High School Musical Theater won the Sutton Foster Ovation Award in 2017 for the best musical production by a Michigan high School.

The main cast members in Wizard include Ellie Stark as Dorothy, Max Wright as the Wizard, Carson Bond as the Scarecrow, Morgan Wiljanen as the Cowardly Lion, Isabel Mincy as the Tin Man, Ciel Mandziuk as the Wicked Witch of the West, Alex Oseland as Auntie Em and Jack Oelslager as the Munchkin mayor.

Phil Johnson’s creative team, which unanimously chose “Wizard" as its production for this year, supervises what have been daily rehearsals since last November. The creative team is composed of himself, Sonja Marquis, Michelle Holowicki, Emilia Sawyer, Kristine Stuenkel and Josh Holowicki. Of that group, Johnson is musical director, Marquis is acting director and Emilia Sawyer is lead choreographer.

Most people are familiar with the story line of the Wizard of Oz, but for those who are not, a tornado whips through the Kansas farm where young Dorothy and her dog, Toto, live. The twister lifts them up and they are then transported magically to the Land of Oz, where she meets a group of delightful Little People called Munchkins. Although they are welcomed and treated royally, Dorothy wants to return home, but to do so she must go to the Emerald City and talk to the Great Wizard. She is later told that all she has to do is click the heels of her ruby red shoes three times and say,“There’s no place like home.” She does, and is immediately transported back to Kansas to be with her family.

Johnson says he gets a deep sense of accomplishment out of directing high school musicals, saying it’s a great experience for young people, and may even encourage some of them to go into professional theater after they graduate.

Showtime is at 7:30 p.m. tonight and 7:30 p.m Saturday for the Red Carpet Gala (which is $50 per ticket and open only to adults 21 and over with dress semi-formal), and 4:30 p.m. on Sunday. The following week, performances will be at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 25th; at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Sat., Feb. 26th; and at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 27th, for the closing performance. Ticket prices are $20 for adults and $17 for students.

For more information or to purchase tickets online, go to