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Talking to the Wizards Behind Oz

Roxborough Presbyterian Church presents musical from ASH Productions.

As a 13-year-old, Anthony Hillanbrand co-created and ran his own talent show. Four years later, the 16-year-old, with the help of members older and younger, stages a Broadway musical.

Lisa Carpenter, Mike Karl and Hillanbrand, with ASH Productions, present The Wizard of Oz, which will run at the Roxborough church March 30 and 31. The youth production casts kids, teens, and a few adults as Dorothy, the Wizard and the residents of Munchkin Land.

ASH Origins

Hillanbrand formed the program four years ago with his cousin, Sabrina (ASH equals Anthony + Sabrina Hillanbrand) as a talent show for the church's youth group. The show began taking its own shape, and started musicals last year with Seussical, Jr.

"We're not really 'drama,' 'drama'—we like comedy. We like something that's fun, uplifting, with a good storyline. We thought (both shows) did a good job teaching about the values of friendship," he said. 

A Roxborough resident, he graduated locally from elementary school, and now attends Roman Catholic High School. Sabrina left last year for college, but Anthony hopes to keep it going.

"I hope to continue (ASH) as long as I can, with going to college and everything.... Mostly I want to work in something else, but I want to keep this up as donation work," he said. 

Though he loves theater (he's playing the Scarecrow in this production), he plans on majoring in business management as a more practical field of study—with maybe a minor in theater. 

A Community Involved

A mother from Norristown, Carpenter organizes the choreography and the website for the show and is the adult leader for ASH. She's helped in several ASH productions, but this is her second official year as their official adviser.

"I think it's especially critical now that they are taking a lot of the extra curricular activities away from the public school system. Just to see these kids have their talents discovered and cultivated—the night of the show, you'll see the real blessings happen," she said.

Since October, ASH has met every Monday night, and monthly on a Sunday. Ramping up to the March 30 and 31 show, ASH holds more frequent rehearsals—with daily practices leading up to opening night.  

"It's amazing. I think they surprise themselves with how much they've come along. We teach them the basics, and it's cool to see them inserting their own flavor to it," she said.

Originally from Roxborough—which is how she joined the church—Carpenter now lives in Norristown with her family. Aside from ASH, she's very active the Roxborough Presbyterian Youth Group.

Both Carpenter and Hillanbrand discussed the community feel to the production. Karl, who does a variety of work for the church, serves as the show's everyman and helps marshal the kids. For Hillanbrand, events like The Wizard of Oz would be nothing without the church as a whole.

"ASH helps to get us together as a community and a congregation. There's many things that go on with the show—the cast, costumes, props—and there's many people in the church that come together to help become part of the show," he said.

The church held a in February, and tickets are only available for the Saturday show. It's been pretty popular.

"It's a good outreach to the community. Sometimes people are hesitant to come into a church and do a program, but we're very relaxed and we do things different. Hopefully, it will bring people in to the community, and help them get involved with either us or the church in general."

Check out the below actors and actresses in The Wizard of Oz.

  • Dorothy—Marykate Purcell
  • Wicked Witch of the West—Erin Mancini
  • Scarecrow—Anthony Hillanbrand 
  • Tinman—Jazzmin Hillanbrand
  • Cowardly Lion—Kelsey Schepise

Visit the ASH website for more information.

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