NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

July 11, 2013

Adventures in Munchkinland

Port girl in North Shore's Music Theatre's 'The Wizard of Oz'

By Ann Reily
Features Editor

---- — Fresh off her turn as Louisa von Trapp in “The Sound of Music,” a Newburyport girl is now trying on a very different persona.

Maggie Budzyna, 12, is playing one of the Munchkins in “The Wizard of Oz,” which opens Tuesday at the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly.

She started rehearsing on June 29, less than one week after the last show of “The Sound of Music” at NSMT.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Maggie, who was one of 16 Munchkins chosen from the hundreds who auditioned. Additionally, she just found out that she will also have a role in Act 2, playing one of two Emerald City schoolgirls.

“For her to get cast in two shows at North Shore this summer was really a dream come true for her,” said her mother, Dierdre Budzyna.

As a Munchkin, Maggie gets to perform a couple of the more amusing songs in “The Wizard of Oz,” including “Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead,” in which Munchkinland lauds Dorothy after her house lands on the Wicked Witch of the East, killing her.

“That number is probably my favorite number,” she said. “The dancing is difficult, but it’s also very fun to perform.”

The Munchkins also have the most eye-catching costumes in the show — “multicolored, neon, crazy,” Maggie said — which will help mark the musical’s transition from black and white to color, echoing the 1939 movie.

“It’s going to go from pretty dull-looking to beyond the extreme,” Maggie said. “I think it’s going to be really fun for the audience.”

Though NSMT’s theater-in-the-round setting can pose some challenges, “I like it a lot better,” Maggie said.

“The first time, it’s very confusing,” she said. “But you can have a lot of fun with it. You can do what feels natural for your character.”

“The Wizard of Oz” is Maggie’s sixth show at NSMT. Her first role was in the chorus of 2010’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” She played Belinda Cratchit twice in “A Christmas Carol,” in 2010 and 2011, and Tessie in last year’s “Annie.” She has also appeared in countless productions throughout the region, starting with her first role at age 4 as Molly in “Annie” at the Firehouse Center for the Arts in Newburyport.

But “The Sound of Music” holds a special place in her heart.

“It was always my dream to be in ‘The Sound of Music’ at the North Shore Music Theatre,” she said. “It’s probably my favorite show I’ve ever done.”

For the Budzynas, doing theater is very much a family affair: Maggie’s dad, John, is the executive director of the Arlington Center for the Arts and the former executive director of the Firehouse. He has also appeared at NSMT, playing four roles in last year’s “A Christmas Carol.” Dierdre is the co-owner of the Acting Out! theater education program at The Tannery Marketplace in Newburyport and has directed a number of local shows.

Maggie’s brother, Colin, 16, has also acted in a number of local productions and will next appear in Boston Children’s Theatre’s “Hair” at The Governor’s Academy in Byfield this August. Her sister, Erin, 14, hasn’t been bit by the acting bug, but she does dance at Little Broadway in Newburyport.

“The Wizard of Oz” also plays an important role in their family’s history. John and Dierdre first met while both were appearing in a Mount Holyoke College Summer Theatre production, him as the Scarecrow, her as a flying monkey.

After this musical closes on Aug. 4, Maggie will devote her time to The Performing Project, a nonprofit workshop that she started in Lawrence to allow underprivileged children to do theater. Last year, she raised $6,000 to put on “Annie Jr.” This year, she has collected $11,000 for “Seussical Jr.”

And she has no plans to slow down once school starts. She’s been cast as Jessie in the Boston premiere of “A Little Princess,” a musical opening in November that is based on the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. A seventh-grader at Berwick Academy in Maine, she will take the hourlong bus ride to and from school, have about two hours to do homework when she gets home, and then head into Boston for nightly rehearsals that can last until 11 p.m.

She figures she’ll get about five hours of sleep a night, plus extra snoozing during the drives to and from Maine and Boston. But she’s not daunted.

“It’s definitely all worth it in the end,” she said.

And it’s all helping her work toward her ultimate dream: “I want to definitely be on Broadway, that’s the goal,” she said.

If you go

What: “The Wizard of Oz”

When: July 16 through Aug. 4

Where: North Shore Music Theatre, 62 Dunham Road, Beverly

How: Tickets are $45-$75. To purchase and for show times, call 978-232-7200 or visit www.nsmt.org.