A homemade Kansas tornado twisting across the William Chrisman High School stage is sure to grab the attention of hundreds of excited children attending the Independence Young Matrons 60th Children's Theater production of “The Wizard of Toyland.”


Written and directed by Ray Ettinger, the original play is a gift of thanks to the community for its ongoing support of the Young Matron's annual Holly and Mistletoe Christmas Homes Tour. The show will be presented to preschoolers and senior citizens at 10 a.m. Friday. Twice daily performances for kindergarteners and first through third grades will be presented March 2-5.


The public is invited to attend the play at 7 p.m. March 5. A reception and display highlighting past performances follows the final show. Admission is free.


Looking for something on which to base a play for a special occasion, Ettinger, who has written and directed nine previous Young Matrons plays, decided to do something special for the Children's Theater 60th anniversary. And he did it. Upon discovering it was the 80th anniversary of “The Wizard of Oz” movie and the 60th anniversary of Children's Theater, Ettinger says these two anniversaries seemed to work out together. Thus: “The Wizard of Toyland,” allowing many actors to become dolls or toys of their choice.


“Because the play is based on ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ we are starting the show with a black-and-white section where there is very little color on stage. It's a small set and we are in the farm yard like Dorothy was in “The Wizard of Oz,” he explains, adding, “The tornado comes through as the curtain opens revealing a Technicolor rainbow set as they did in ‘The Wizard of Oz.’”


“The play is a narrative on the downfalls of bullying and how it can be overcome through friendships and cooperation,” Ettington says, explaining it started with the idea that he wanted them to be able to dress up like toys and dolls. In the play, Cyn-Cyn, portrayed by Cynthia Peters, likes to tear toys apart. So she just bullies her way through everything.


“She is basically the Wicked Witch of the West. So she is working on that.”


While Dottie Breeze, portrayed by Dian Buckley, travels down the Lego-Brick Road, she finds three friends to travel with her: Raggedy Sandy (Pat Bounds), Teddy Rucksack (Vicki Craft) and Buzz Robott (Gloria Taylor Stone), each of whom is trying to find a way for Cyn-Cyn to become a better person and repair broken toys rather than destroy them.


Suddenly, a tornado sweeps Dottie away from her black-and-white existence to Dollyland, a place full of bright colors. There she is told that to save the toys she must see the Wizard of Toyland. As she follows the Lego-Brick Road, she meets Raggedy Sandy, Buzz Robot and Teddy Rusack who help her.


What can the audience expect to take home from the play?


“The basic moral of the story is that it is good to have friends and to help those friends when they need something,” Ettinger says. “And that is kind of the moral of the whole story. But basically, let's just have a good, fun, family evening.”


The cast includes: Dian Buckley (Dottie Breeze), Betty Langton (Hunk), Patty Chadwick (Hickory), Linda Wilber (Zeke), Bev Huffman (Cynthia), Christy Cavaness-Adams, (Dolly Parton), Cynthia Peters (Cyn-Cyn), Pat Bounds (Raggedy Sandy), Gloria Taylor Stone (Buzz Robot). Vicki Kraft (Teddy Rucksack), Nancy J. Melton (B.O.B. Builder(s)/Doorman), Irene Corbin (Lolly Doll), Ann Gall (Holly Doll), Susan Jones (Melani Leighton Floyd), Olly Doll (Carole Lingren), Kristen Miller (Wally Doll), Anthony theTiger (Patty Chadwick), Beat Nick (Bev Huffman), Mrs. Potato Head (Betty Langton) and Mr. Potato Head (Linda Wilber).


Says Ettinger, who saw his first Matrons show as a sixth grader at Bryant Elementary School in 1959, “I just hope that anyone who has seen a Young Matrons Show will come back and join us for the 60th anniversary and bring the kids. We would like for them to come.”


Retired community news reporter Frank Haight Jr. writes this column for The Examiner. You can leave a message for him at 816-350-6363.