New Children's Production of 'The Wizard of Oz' Sees the Wicked Witch Played by a Man

(AP Photo/Warner Bros., File)

There’s a saying in the film world: “Ninety percent of directing is casting.” The same surely applies to theater, and a Tennessee production house recently made a surprising move to end its search for the perfect ugly enchantress.


The Nashville Children’s Theatre was founded in 1931. But despite being steeped in history, it’s far from old-fashioned. Case in point: its current telling of Frank Baum’s 1900 tale, The Wizard of Oz. For the role of the Wicked Witch of the West, it’s cast against type by selecting a man.

As relayed by The Daily Wire, Executive Director Ernie Nolan explained the reasoning behind hiring actor James Rudolph:

“We cast what we felt was the best actor in a role for our play. We had someone who we thought could do a fantastic job, he’s a fantastic actor, and we cast an actor in a role.”

He must truly be extraordinary to have out-Wicked-Witched all uterus-bearing auditioners. The show surely benefits from such amazing ability. Even so, there was reportedly a bit of a stir during one of the performances:

[Homeschool mom Kelley Judd] explained that the children around her in the audience, including her daughter, reacted immediately after actor James Rudolph appeared on stage for the first time. “That’s a man! That’s a man!” they shouted.

Nonetheless, acting is indeed about portraying someone different than oneself. And there’s a very long history of men playing women. Still, these days, cultural dictates increasingly forbid…acting. Consider Brendan Fraser’s doghousing over his portrayal of a morbidly obese gay man in Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale.


From Variety:

[F]raser needed…makeup and gadgetry for a simple reason: He’s not severely obese. Nor, for that matter, is he gay. And at a time when there’s a raging debate about on-screen representation of marginalized communities, some have wondered why Aronofsky didn’t cast an overweight actor to play the role.

Perhaps the Nashville Children’s Theatre enjoys leeway due to one of America’s most trending forms of entertainment: drag shows. James Rudolph is a fan of the art — he co-hosts a podcast reviewing episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

There’s an evident disparity — while one film critic accuses Avatar 2 of “appropriation” because white actors voiced blue cartoon cat-people, drag appears to be an area in which playing a character is still allowed. Some might even say it’s prominently promoted:

Southern Women’s Shelter Presents ‘Purple Reign’ Drag Show

New York Spent More Than $200,000 on Drag Queens — at Public Schools

Nevada Air Force Base Hosts Drag Show, and It’s Part of a Softer, Gentler Military

Nancy Pelosi Gets Religious During a Star Appearance on a Drag Show

Christian Church Will Host Drag Show for Youth Ages 12-18

Christian Divinity School Recites Prayer to the ‘Great Queer One,’ Who’s a ‘Drag Queen and Trans Man’


Back to the Nashville Children’s Theatre, it’s on the cutting political edge. On its “Mission, Vision and Values” page, there are three headings: “Our Mission,” “Our Vision,” “Our Values,” and “Black Lives Matter.”

Nashville Children’s Theatre grieves the senseless and unjust killing of George Floyd, and countless others who lost their lives to injustice and police brutality. Black lives matter…and children need to be included in the conversation in order to make change in our theatre and the community.

We recognize that we play a vital role in shaping the narrative through the stories we tell to our young audiences. In our society, young people of color have been consistently underrepresented in content created for kids and families. While it is a key tenet of the mission and vision of the Nashville Children’s Theatre to represent diverse audiences and expose all children to transformational theatrical experiences and cultural literacy, we want our audiences to be clear that we will redouble our efforts on our journey to lift up children of color.

We will invest in and champion more artists of color, reflect the diversity of our communities in our organizational staff and boards, and use the stage to demonstrate our values. Our young people deserve better than the world we are offering them, and it is our job to help rewrite the story.


In casting a male to play an iconic female character, the progressive Nashville Children’s Theatre is either completely at odds with political correctness, or totally in sync with it. Either way, acting is just that — and they should cast whoever they like.

Meanwhile — in an unrelated story — the nation is changing; America is off to see the Wonderful Wizard of Woke.



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