When Molly Malady and Jordan Brooks pull into town, they pack everything they need — set, scripts, props and costumes — to stage a musical.
In this case, the directors from Missoula Children’s Theatre are staging a Western-themed take on "The Wizard of Oz” called “The Wiz of the West” Friday and Saturday at Westpark Village.
What’s especially nontraditional about this show, which features local actors, is the age range of the players themselves.
Most are elementary school students.
A half-dozen or so are residents of Westpark Village, a West End retirement, assisted living and memory care facility.
The age mix pleases at least two Westpark residents.
“It’s fun being with these kids,” said Kenny Biggs, who’s 89. “Our kids and grandkids and great-grandkids aren’t in Billings.”
“These kids are wonderful,” said his wife, Nadine, who’s 86 and plays Ma to her husband’s Pa Munch, who head up the show’s Munch Kin.
On Tuesday afternoon, Malady and Brooks — who have staged “The Wiz of the West” 14 times together — put the cast through its second of five rehearsals in Westpark Village’s lower level, where the show will be offered to the public Friday evening and Saturday afternoon.
“It is a unique experience, working with people of different ages,” Malady said.
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“Usually, it’s just us and a group of children,” Brooks said. “It will be nice for the young actors to make those connections” with actors who might be 10 times their age.
“You never know what will spark a kid’s interest,” he said.
The directors require the younger actors to memorize their parts, but Westpark Village residents are allowed to use their scripts during the performances if they need them.
As Tuesday’s rehearsal began, Malady and Brooks split their acting troupe into two groups. As familiar as they are with the script, the directors narrated the action while reminding the actors of their blocking and cuing them on their lines.
“It’ll all come together Friday,” Malady said with a grin.
“The Wiz of the West” is Westpark Village’s third intergenerational play in three years.
“We see that both generations benefit from the interaction,” said Tina Vauthier, Westpark Village’s executive director, “and the children develop confidence, skills and self-esteem — as well as meaningful relationships with our residents.”
The play is part of Westpark Village's Ages Entwined program, which develops activities to bring generations together to share, from one generation to another, wisdom, mentoring and socializing.
“Many of the residents here have never done anything like this,” Malady said. “These kids may never be in another play again, but for one week, it’s fun for everyone.”