Performing in Saudi Arabia ‘a dream come true,’ says ‘Wizard of Oz’ star

The show — a celebration of the classic 1939 movie — is being performed for the first time in the Kingdom in the Red Hall at Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University until Oct. 26. (Photos/Supplied)
Updated 24 October 2019

Performing in Saudi Arabia ‘a dream come true,’ says ‘Wizard of Oz’ star

  • Arab News speaks to lead actress, production manager of the musical, now being staged in Riyadh
  • The show has already toured twice in the US, then for 13 weeks in China. The regional tour began two weeks ago in Bahrain, before arriving in Dhahran and Riyadh. Its next stop is Jeddah

RIYADH: People in Riyadh have been enjoying a lavish new rendition of the beloved musical “The Wizard of Oz” for the last week. 

The show — a celebration of the classic 1939 movie starring Judy Garland as the young heroine Dorothy Gale — is being performed for the first time in the Kingdom in the Red Hall at Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University until Oct. 26. The stunning visual effects employed by the touring production — and, of course, the timeless, classic songs — have left audiences spellbound.

Marc Ciemiewicz, company manager at production company APEX Touring, expressed how important performing in Saudi Arabia is for the cast and crew.

“To be in a country that has never had an American musical theater performance is history-making, and that is what I think is the biggest honor for us,” he told Arab News. “We are part of history. It is something that we can tell our grandchildren: ‘You know what? I was (part of) one of the first shows that ever went to Saudi Arabia.’ That is very exciting.” 

Ciemiewicz admitted that no one involved in the show was sure what to expect from a Saudi audience. “It’s a first-of-its-kind experience and we have met with incredible audiences who have absolutely loved the show. It has been such a wonderful thing to be able to bring such a show to a country that has never had that experience.”

The show has already toured twice in the US, then for 13 weeks in China. The regional tour began two weeks ago in Bahrain, before arriving in Dhahran and Riyadh. Its next stop is Jeddah.

To be in a country that has never had an American musical theater performance is history-making, and that is what I think is the biggest honor for us.

Marc Ciemiewicz, company manager, APEX Touring

Such a heavy schedule can take its toll on everyone involved. Ciemiewicz’s solution? “Rest, rest and more rest.” But he also stressed that it is important to the team to be able to explore the countries they visit, and that they were all keen to embrace the Kingdom’s culture while they are here.

“It’s an absolute honor and privilege to be here,” Megan Urz, who plays Dorothy in the show, told Arab News — adding that she has always been “fascinated” by the Middle East. “I have always wanted to come here. It’s blowing me away,” she said.

Performing in the Kingdom has been “beyond what we were expecting,” Urz said, adding that her favorite part of the job is the audiences’ reaction to her performance, and those of her fellow cast members.

“I think about it every night,” she said. “All the many new faces who get to experience this show with all of us for the first time.”

“As an actor, you have to learn how to play with the audience as much as you are playing with the actors on the stage,” Ciemiewicz said. “Sometimes you will find an audience that is more reserved and they’re very quiet through the show, and then at the end they go totally crazy.”

For Urz and the rest of the cast, each performance they give on tour is special and unique, and the experience is just as enjoyable for them as for the audience.

“I still have to remind myself that I am actually here in Saudi Arabia performing ‘The Wizard of Oz’ to these beautiful people. It’s a dream come true,” said Urz. “It is so heartwarming for all of us to be able to spread and experience (this) joy with them.”


KSRelief-backed Al-Amal Arsal Center continues to provide medical services to Syrian refugees

Updated 30 min 35 sec ago

KSRelief-backed Al-Amal Arsal Center continues to provide medical services to Syrian refugees

ARSAL, Lebanon:  The Al-Amal Medical Center in Lebanon’s Bekaa governorate continued to provide medical services to Syrian refugees with the support of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief).

It is part of a project to strengthen health services for Syrian refugees and the host community in the town of Arsal.

In May, 4,575 patients visited the clinics and received 8,123 free health services across specialized departments, in addition to receiving help from laboratory, pharmacy and nursing services.

General health clinics received 396 patients, eye clinics had 506 patients, the emergency department 595 patients, dental clinics 325 patients, pediatric clinics saw 347 patients, with 125 vaccinations provided.

ENT clinics received 412 patients, orthopedic clinics 311 patients, heart clinics had 240 patients, urology clinics 472 patients, gastroenterology clinics 180 patients, gynecological clinics 271 patients, gland and diabetes clinics 65 patients, and psychiatric clinics 68 patients.

The Al-Amal Medical Center is following the necessary procedures and precautions in light of the coronavirus pandemic to provide services to patients in a safe medical environment.

Awareness campaigns were carried out to familiarize people with precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the disease, and they were provided with items for personal hygiene.

The medical director of the project, Dr. Tariq Shandab, said that the center aimed to serve more than 45,000 people and provide them with healthcare in a variety of fields, in addition to having an emergency department that worked around the clock and an integrated pharmacy to provide free medicine to all patients.

Shandab expressed his gratitude for the humanitarian services provided by Saudi Arabia, represented by KSRelief, to the Syrian refugees and their host community.

 

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