On a very special night before the Valparaiso Memorial Opera House’s production of The Wizard of Oz, the cast invited a special guest to their warm ups: the world’s biggest Oz fan. Ryan Gagliardi and his mother got VIP treatment, a prop from the play, and a few extra surprises. The March 4th performance was the 26-year-old’s first time seeing his favorite movie live.
“All his life he’s been watching it,” said his mother, Donna. “When I was little it scared me but for him it was no big deal.”
Ryan was ecstatic to see the play. His first surprise was being greeted at the theatre door by the play’s director, Mike Glorioso. Glorioso led his guest down the aisle while his mother explained that they were early on purpose.
An hour before curtain, Ryan had a meet and greet with Dorothy and Toto. He then watched as the entire cast warmed up their singing voices. Afterward, he joined them onstage for a photo.
“It’s so special to have Ryan here,” said Mike. “I think it is important to give people the gift of live theatre. Since this is his first time, and he is such a huge fan, it makes it that much greater.”
As a token of their appreciation, the cast prepared some gifts for their biggest fan. Ryan was given a candy lollipop and a nearly identical plastic replica of a lollipop, taken from the stage props so that he could keep the play with him forever. Each cast member signed a copy of the program for Ryan to take home.
The wicked witch gave him a Hostess Ding Dong, that had “the witch is dead” scrawled across the side. It was a cute joke, for anyone familiar with the movie.
The character that Ryan most identifies with is the scarecrow. He assigned each of his family members a character from the movie: his mother is Dorothy, his father is the Lion, and his brother, Kyle, is the Tin Man.
“He gets me,” said Ryan of his star. “He’s funny, he’s like me.”
The Wizard of Oz is a captivating play for all audiences. For Ryan, it was immersion into a world of magic, mystery, and familiar laughs.