Friday, February 16, 2001
Carlisle School seventh graders present: 'The Wizard of Oz'
Sure, we all think we know the story of "The Wizard of Oz," and we all think we know what to expect from a middle school play. But last weekend, Carlisle seventh graders presented a fun and refreshing spin on Frank Baum's familiar tale, in a production that possessed a delightful sense of creativity and an impressive degree of professionalism.
The success of the play, presented February 8, 9 and 10 at the Carlisle School Corey Auditorium, clearly reflected the considerable talents and teamwork of students, parents and teachers, including Catherine Pringle, a music teacher at the school who served as director for the show.
Audience members familiar with the movie version of "The Wizard of Oz" were treated to a number of unique touches. The twister, for example, was depicted by the Tornado Dancers (Teresa Barton, Marie Benkley, AnnMarie Bilotta, Alina Blum, Amanda Byers, Aimee Carter, Irene Dennison, Susanna Fardy, Emily Goldberg, Melissa Judson, Maureen Moulton, Raina Patel, Vanessa Rao, Lindsay Ventura, and Jenny Zywiak), whose clever choreography (by dance instructor Drea Zollo) mimicked the swirling winds of a tornado. Later on, in the Great Forest along the Yellow Brick Road, came the "Jitterbug" scene, which was cut from the original movie version. In it, the lead characters, (under a spell cast by the wicked witch) were forced to join the "Jitterbugs" (Allie Bryan, Melissa Judson, Sarah Khederian, Reggie Halstrom, Michael Luby, Jaime Macone, Heather Risso, Zack Rubenstein, Ron Sadan, and Ian Saylor) in an energetic dance befitting its name. The spell was broken when the Good Witch (Katie DeGuglielmo) sent the Snowflake Dancers, andto the delight of the audienceit began to snow on stage.
In addition to new, creative touches, audience members were treated to details that reminded them of the beloved film version. Christie Richards, as Dorothy, wore Judy Garland braids, and sang a sweet rendering of "Over the Rainbow"; likewise the Scarecrow (Ben Brewer), Tin Man (Thomas Abend) and Cowardly Lion (Nikki Spencer) wore costumes reminiscent of the movie, and sang "If I Only Had [a Brain, a Heart, the Nerve]." The Wicked Witch (Elise Lehotsky) could have rivaled Margaret Hamiltoncomplete with the green complexion and an impressively evil cackle. Even the set reminded viewers of the movie: entirely black and white during opening scenes in Kansas, then resplendent with color upon arriving in Oz, with vibrant flowers and colorful Munchkins' costumes.
About those Munchkins: the "little people" effect (achieved by students walking on their knees, some with little shoes) was adorable. There were other clever "special effects" as well. Perhaps the most impressiveand eerieeffect was achieved when the great and powerful Wizard of Oz (played by Nick Lunig) addressed the crowd. Although Lunig himself was positioned off-stage, his spookily lit face was videotaped (by student Michael Luby) and simultaneously cast onto a large screen on stage.
Another pleasant and welcome touch in the Carlisle production was the addition of student musicians performing solos and duets during scene changes. These musical interludes provided an opportunity to showcase talented students as well as ease scene transitions. Angela DiPace, the school's elementary music teacher, who also served as the show's music director, provided the show's piano accompaniment.
Given the credentials of school staff members who worked on the play, the level of professionalism should come as no surprise. In addition to being a member of the Carlisle School music department, Pringle is a classically trained, award-winning opera singer who gives private voice lessons. DiPace is also an award-winning musician, currently working on her master's degree in Music Education. Choreographer Drea Zollo, who teaches Spanish and French in the Carlisle Public Schools, is a dance professional who competes in Pro/Amateur Latin Ballroom competitions.
As with any theater production, there are plenty of behind-the-scenes people to share credit for the success of "The Wizard of Oz". An impressive team of students, faculty and parents helped with lighting, props, costumes, sets, ticket sales, publicity, photography, make-up, sound, refreshments and backstage chaperoning.
Perhaps it is this spirit of teamwork that inspired someone to include in the printed program: "There really is no place like our Carlisle home."
© 2001 The Carlisle Mosquito