More than 80 Lower School students in grades 4-5 brought The Wizard of Oz to the Hurlbut Theater in four shows last week. This year, 63 percent of students in grades 4-5 opted to participate in the spring musical, a production in which every one who wants to participates will receive a role.
The students played iconic characters like Dorothy, Toto, The Wizard of Oz, The Lion, Scarecrow, Tin Man, Glinda and The Wicked Witch as well as Munchkins, Jitterbug Chorus, Emerald City Chorus and flying monkeys. They were able to tell the story with amazing effects provided by the technical arts team. Resident Designer and Technical Director Gordon Richins led the creation of the projections, the set pieces and the painted stage, recruiting his theater tech students at every step. Behind the scenes, dozens of MS and US students and production assistants helped make the magic happen through costuming, moving set pieces and projections. Stage manager Lauryn Harris, grade 7, called the cues in the tech booth with support from Tartan alumnus Spencer Keane.
The cast members had been rehearsing since March, learning lines with Director Zach Hanna, music with Musical Director Lex Leigh, and choreography by Carly Taberski. Ryan DeLucia assistant directed. Fresh from her role as Mary Poppins in the Upper School musical, senior Maddie Bendzick was associate director. This production was a tech-heavy show and a lot of pieces had to come together in the final week. To make the process even more challenging, the students had only six rehearsals on the stage after waiting for the spring concerts to conclude.
In addition to the lighting and scenery, costumes and specialty makeup helped the students tell the classic story. The show began with Dorothy and her dog, Toto, being transported by a tornado from Kansas to the Land of Oz. In the beginning of the performance, there were drab costuming and projections, conveying the dusty scenery in Kansas. However, once Dorothy and Toto found themselves in Oz, the audience found themselves surrounded by many colors and beautiful flowers. The landscape on stage and in the projections became vibrant and colorful. Dorothy is welcomed by Glinda and cheered by the Munchkins, including the members of the Lullaby league and Lollipop guild.
Soon after, Dorothy began her journey to return home, encouraged to “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” to seek help from the Wizard. Along the way, she meets the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion, each seeking his own missing piece. Throughout the story, the Wicked Witch enters and exits with a puff of green smoke, adding to her threatening character and building the sense of danger that the characters face along their journey. Together they supported and encouraged one another, often lending one another a helping hand.
As Mr. Hanna says, “What draws so many people to the story of Oz is its ability to serve as a blank canvas for so many kinds of American fantasies. Oz has been a way to explore themes of friendship, and courage; journey and home; and the human fight against all odds.”
Many cast parents volunteers supported the shows as well. They helped throughout the week with green room supervision, costume assistance, selling grams and concessions as well as ushering.