Good witch, bad witch

Travolta sisters headline ‘The Wizard of Oz’

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Ellen Travolta, far left, plays the wicked witch in Coeur d'Alene Summer Theater's production of The Wizard of Oz that opens June 9 at North Idaho College's Schuler Performing Arts Center. Mallory McKooney-King will play the lead role of Dorothy and Glinda is portrayed by Margaret Travolta, right.

The Travolta sisters are back.

This time, though, it's only the two, Ellen and Margaret, but they have picked up where they left off.

Ellen, along with husband Jack Bannon and Margaret, have key roles in "The Wizard of Oz," which will be the first play this summer at the Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre.

For Margaret this will be her second year performing in a Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre play.

"I didn't know I was going to do anything this year. And then I thought I was only going to do the one role, just the Auntie Em role," Margaret said. "Then they realized in the play version, whoever plays Auntie Em plays the good witch too."

It's only fitting Margaret plays the good witch, with her sister, Ellen, playing the Wicked Witch of the West.

"It's fun. We're already good friends and we can play act anything," Ellen said. "It is fun to do the opposites, and we are pretty good together."

Margaret agreed, and added that everyone in the play has a dual role. Ellen plays the Wicked Witch of the West as well as Miss Gulch.

Ellen likes the evil role. She also played the evil stepmother in "Cinderella" last year.

"I love doing this part, and I think it's a lot of fun," Ellen said. "Dorothy and everybody else are so good except the wicked witch."

Kasey Graham, director, has enjoyed directing the play and interacting with both Ellen and Margaret.

"They are both great and really funny," Graham said. "They play opposite roles and it's just a lot of fun to watch them."

This will be the second play Graham has directed, and the first one he has worked with Ellen and Margaret. Graham has also been involved with three other plays in the Coeur d'Alene Summer Theater as a musical director.

Graham also said "The Wizard of Oz" is probably the biggest show the CST has put on, with well more than 100 costumes and more than 30 extras to play the munchkins.

This year, the Travolta sisters will be without Annie Travolta, their other sister. Last year, the three performed together for the first time in the play "Cinderella."

"We both really miss our sister and this is a family affair. We normally always have at least one of us in one play whether it's me, or my husband, or like last year all of us," Ellen said.

Being a Travolta, acting has been a family affair ever since the beginning. Ellen points to her mother's influence.

"Instead of bed time stories, she used to read us plays," Ellen said. "I was attracted to it from the very beginning."

Ellen has been a part of the Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre for more than 20 years and has appeared in multiple TV shows and movies.

Margaret has been one of the top voice-over actresses with credits including Kraft, Disney World and McDonald's. She has also appeared in TV shows and movies.

Yet, with all their experience, both Ellen and Margaret will get to try something new. With the production of "The Wizard of Oz," they will have the opportunity to do a little assisted "flying."

"It's really fun. You have to have a very strong and smart team because you want to be confident," Ellen said.

While Ellen's flying is assisted by a team and she needed to be trained in it, Margaret's flying is a little more laid back.

"It's almost like a swing," Margaret said. "They swing me across the stage and back, and its a lot of fun."

Last year, the Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre dazzled people with the effects of "Cinderella." This year will be no different.

"This is the most technical show and biggest play we have ever done," Ellen said. "The special effects are amazing, and the cast is wonderful."

The Coeur d'Alene Summer Theater was established in 1967 and is the oldest performing arts organization in Idaho. It became a nonprofit in 1984.

By 2005, USA Today named the Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre as one of the "10 best places to see musical theater way off Broadway." The theater group performs in the Schuler Auditorium Performing Arts Center on the campus of North Idaho College.

Ellen has been a part of the theater since 1990 when she came up to search for a home with her husband and fellow actor, Jack Bannon.

"We were up here looking for a house, and people recognized us from television and said, 'why are you here?' We said, 'We are looking for a house,' and they asked, 'Would you ever do theater?'"

Ellen said she didn't know whether she was going to or not, but the artistic director asked if she would like a role in the play, "Company," and Ellen said yes.

While Ellen has lived here for quite some time, Margaret is just starting to get settled down in Coeur d'Alene after having lived in major cities such as Chicago and Los Angeles. In July, Margaret will have lived in the Lake City for two years.

"Now I am feeling like I am a part of the community," Margaret said. "The people are really friendly, and it (Coeur d'Alene) has a small-town feeling to it where you walk down the street and you really do know people, and that makes you feel connected to the community."

"The Wizard of Oz" will be performed June 9-12, and June 16-19.

"I think it's going to be a wonderful show. Everyone in it is terrific, and the people of this community should be proud of this theater and support it and come," Ellen said. "It's a family show, and it's important to get your children in to see live theater, and this is a fabulous theater."

Information: 769-7780 and

If you go

The Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre's production, "The Wizard of Oz," will be presented the next two weekends at North Idaho College's Schuler Performing Arts Center.

Performances are 7:30 p.m. June 10, 11, 16, 17 and 18, with 2 p.m. Sunday matinees on June 12 and 19.

Individual tickets are $39, children tickets ages 6-12 are $25, with groups of 10 or more people costing $29 per ticket. You can also buy a package that will allow you to see every show the theater is putting on for the summer season.

You can purchase tickets or season passes online at or call (208) 769-7780 for information.

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