With its engaging production of “Grease” last spring, Northeast High had actors hand-jiving and hip-thrusting, but this year, the thespians will be skipping and singing to songs from a different classic, “The Wizard of Oz.”
Set for November 15-17, Northeast’s adaptation draws from L. Frank Baum’s children’s book and the 1939 film, with music by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg.
A tornado sweeps a young farm girl named Dorothy and her dog, Toto, away from Kansas and into the Land of Oz. She must venture to the Emerald City and persuade the Wizard of Oz to let her return home, but the Wicked Witch of the West stands in her way.
Asked why Northeast chose “The Wizard of Oz” as its fall musical, director Sarah DelSignore said, “It’s a family show. We do really well with families because they can sit and enjoy. There will be little girls in their Dorothy costumes ready to watch.”
Playing Dorothy is Lillie Jewell, who has performed about 25 roles including Rizzo in Northeast’s production of “Grease.” For “The Wizard of Oz,” Jewell studied the film and other stage productions to capture her character’s peppy personality.
“I just like how polite she is,” Jewell said. “She always has a calm demeanor.”
On her travels, Dorothy rescues the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion from various perils, and the three newfound companions join her in her quest to reach the Emerald City. After all, the Scarecrow needs a brain, the Tin Man is searching for a heart and the Cowardly Lion is in short supply of courage.
Senior Bethany Wright is portraying the Scarecrow. She previously had a role in Northeast’s production of “Beauty and the Beast” in 2016 and she was brainy cheerleader Patty Simcox in “Grease.”
“I like all of the falling,” Wright joked when asked about playing the Scarecrow. “It’s a very different character.”
Joining Jewell and Wright are senior Zach Demers as Tin Man and senior Andrew Solley as the Cowardly Lion.
According to DelSignore, about 25 elementary school students are playing munchkins. About 45 high schoolers make up the high school cast.
“Students are sewing costumes and making scenery,” DelSignore said, “so the students are getting a lot of experience with this production.”
Those students are aided by several dedicated volunteers. Lenore Martin makes costumes. Kevin Franc leads the stage crew. Rose Mullikin does choreography, Karen MacFie is involved in production, Tim Simmons is adding special effects and Karen Simmons works in the music pit.
DelSignore is excited for audiences to see the new technology and animated backdrops that will add color to the Land of Oz. Of course, they will also hear their favorite songs: “We’re Off to See the Wizard,” “If I Only Had A Brain,” “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and more.
A tale of friendship and courage, “The Wizard of Oz” runs at 7:00pm from November 15-17 in the school’s auditorium. Tickets can be purchased at the door or by emailing email@example.com. See the show to be enchanted and to be reminded that there’s no place like home.
Photo by Zach Sparks