Friday, March 5, 2010
A horse of a different color: Seventh-graders open The Wizard of Oz on March 11
Just as CCHS brings to a close its delightful production of Wonderful Town this weekend, Carlisle fans of student performances can enjoy a “horse of a different color”: the curtain rises on March 11 on Carlisle’s annual Seventh Grade Play, right here, where “there’s no place like home.” A cast of 72 students as well as a backstage crew, light crew, front-of-house crew and a coterie of dedicated parent volunteers headed by producers Kelly Driscoll, Lisa Harris and Dale Ryder will take the audience “over the rainbow” with their production of The Wizard of Oz.
Audiences will recognize the famous Harold Arlen/E.Y. Harburg songs from the 1939 movie starring Judy Garland, as well as elements of the original Herbert Stothart instrumental score that have become as iconic as Dorothy’s ruby slippers. Music Director Lisa Lofdahl has corralled a five-person musical combo of woodwinds, violin, trombone, piano and percussion, including CCHS student and Carlisle School graduate Sonie Boor, to handle the score, and is covering the famous sound effects of the show with some inventive and effective low-tech gizmos that will bring audiences right along with Dorothy into the cone of the cyclone and allow them to hear the Tin Man’s clanking suit, among other familiar sounds.
Many of the characters in The Wizard of Oz are non-human, and tinged with fantasy. The Flying Monkeys appear as a number of student dancer/actors, “flying” with light, airy leaps about the stage. Dorothy’s three friends, the Tin Man, Lion and Scarecrow, portrayed respectively by Ethan Chang, Caleb Perlman and Gavin Saylor, all shape their characters distinctively by voice and movement to demonstrate the awkward stiffness of a man of tin, the big-cat-cum-goofy-galumphing of the cowardly Lion, and the loose, boneless stuffed body of the straw man who cannot frighten crows but has the finest brain of the quartet of friends. The most realistic of the non-human characters is Dorothy’s dog, Toto, portrayed by a real Cairn terrier named Scout. Scout belongs to the Feiner family of Baldwin Road, who acquired him 11 years ago precisely because he is the same breed as Terry, the dog who portrayed Toto in the 1939 movie and went on to enjoy a successful film career until her death in 1945.
The Wizard of Oz seems to have a cast of thousands: Munchkins, inhabitants of the Emerald City, Flying Monkeys, Guards (Winkies) at the Castle of the Wicked Witch of the West, and more. Carlisle seventh-graders will perform several large production numbers, notably “Ding, Dong the Witch is Dead,” “Munchkinland” and “The Merry Old Land of Oz.” Most students in the ensemble are appearing at least twice, doubling roles as denizens of the Emerald City and as Munchkins. Johnathan Spence, for example, has roles as a member of the Munchkin Lollipop Guild, a Flying Monkey and an Emerald City inhabitant. In addition, much of the music is divided so as to feature soloists or small choral groups. For example, a chorus of three strong sopranos performs the “Optimistic Voices” introduction to “The Merry Old Land of Oz”: “You’re out of the woods, you’re out of the dark, you’re out of the night./Step into the sun, step into the light…/March up to the gate and bid it open…” and other parts of songs highlight other singers and dancers.
Choreography for the show, by Drama Director AnneMarie LaTulip, is bubbly and capitalizes on the energy of seventh-graders. Oz is full of movement; scenes that focus on dialogue are quick and often punctuated with music, keeping the action dynamic and vigorous. LaTulip has brought out the spirit of the original while adding her own particular vision and imaginative color to the familiar story and music, so that Carlisle students can put their own stamp on them.
Dorothy, played with great bounce and spirit by the diminutive Reilly Harring, is very affecting as she goes on her quest in Oz to find her home. Her three friends, the Scarecrow, the Lion and the Tin Man, form a supportive team, each seeking his own “heart’s desire”: a brain, courage and a heart. Graham Piette, as the guard at the door of the Emerald City, has mastered the nasal trumpet tones of Frank Morgan’s voice in the original movie, as well as his flair and sense of comedy. The Wizard is Maxwell Krims, who is possessed of an enormous voice thoroughly capable of commanding the four friends to bring back to him the broom of the Wicked Witch of the West: “I am Oz, the great and powerful!” The witches, North (Glinda) and West, are played with appropriate sweetness and bitterness by Molly Callahan and Ellen Askey.
The students are quite obviously excited about performing their version of this classic and well-beloved piece, and their production promises a joyous opening on March 11 at 3:30 p.m., followed by performances at 7 p.m. on March 12 and 13. All shows are in Corey Auditorium. Tickets are available from any seventh-grade student, on the school plaza on Wednesday from 2 to 3:15 p.m., and tomorrow on Ferns porch and at the Transfer Station. Tickets are also available from firstname.lastname@example.org or at the door at each performance. There’s no place like home, is there? ∆
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