Entertainment, Reviews

Familiar Plot, Imaginary Journey in Excellent Production

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GREENSBORO – The Hazen Union Drama Club presented a lively version of “The Wizard of Oz” on May 16, 17 and 18 at the Highland Center for the Arts, with a large cast of some three dozen students in a wide range of ages (not to mention a dog).

photo by Vanessa Fournier Wizard of Oz characters (from left) Dorothy (Grace Cloutier), Lion (Chloe Cloutier) and Scarecrow (Ethan Gann) dance until they can’t anymore, as the Jitterbugs (in back, from left) Juniper Book, Piper Hall, Kassidy Gann and Ursa Goldenrose keep dancing. The play was performed by the Hazen Union Drama Club, May 16 through May 18, at the Highland Center for the Arts.

Usually musicals are made into films, but in this case, the older film has been made into a stage production. “The Wizard of Oz,” from L. Frank Baum’s popular fantasy book, became a classic film in 1939, starring Judy Garland, Ray Bolger and Bert Lahr in leading roles. The familiar plot involves an imaginary journey of Dorothy Gale, a young Kansas farm girl, to the legendary Kingdom of Oz. On the way she is joined by three companions, a Scarecrow, a Tin Man, and a Lion, who together overcome various challenges by outwitting a bad witch, with the help of Glinda the good witch, and a pair of magical red shoes.

The show begins with a crisis for Dorothy (Grace Cloutier) who was very well cast in appearance and manner, with just the right combination of innocence and persistent Midwest optimism, confronted by the angry Miss Gulch who claims she was bitten by Dorothy’s dog, Toto (played by Grizzly, a bull dog) and demands to take him away to be put down. Neither her Aunt Em (Georgia Allen), her Uncle Henry (Ira Karp), nor her supposed friends–Zeke (Chloe Cloutier), Hickory (Quinn Molleur) and Huck (Ethan Gann) support her, so in despair, Dorothy decides to run away with Toto. She then sings the most beautiful song in the musical, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, with fine feeling.

On her flight, Dorothy meets Professor Marvel, an itinerant magician (well acted by Will Helms), who cleverly convinces her to return home. But, just as she reaches her front porch, she is overtaken by a tornado which transports her and the farmhouse over the rainbow to a colorful world where she exclaims the iconic line. “I guess we’re not in Kansas anymore!” The Good Witch, Glinda (Georgia Allen), dressed in an elegant gown and having an enchanting demeanor, along with a crowd of Munchkins greet her. They thank her for killing the Wicked Witch of the East, for the house, which was transported by the tornado, had landed on the bad witch. They all celebrate with the song, “Ding-Dong, the Wicked Witch is Dead.”

But her sister, the Wicked Witch of the West, played by Sadie Gann consistently in character with a cold calculating and cruel personality well portrayed, threatens revenge on Dorothy. Glinda counsels Dorothy to take the magic red shoes from the dead witch to protect herself and Follow the Yellow Brick Road to find the Wizard of Oz.

Along the way, she meets the straw-stuffed Scarecrow who needs a brain, Ethan Gann whose awkward body movements, appropriate facial expressions and great singing voice gave him a real stage presence. Next they rescue the rust frozen Tin Man, Quinn Molleur, with a convincingly stiff gait, who in addition to oil to loosen up rusted joints, needs a heart. Then they find the Lion, Chloe Cloutier, whose acting well conveyed a lack of confidence and fear of almost everything, who is seeking courage. They each sing a verse of a plaintive song with great lyrics, “If I Only Had A Brain/Heart/Nerve,” and then depart with Dorothy singing “We’re Off to See the Wizard,” in search of the items they feel they are lacking.

The Wicked Witch of the West tries repeatedly to block their path, with a sleep inducing poppy patch, a seductive and exhausting Jitterbug (featuring Ursula Goldenrose with impressive skill) and even to dognap Toto. But in the end, they reach the City of Oz and, after some amusing banter with the guard at the gate (Ira Karp), they get to speak, at a distance, with the Wizard himself (Will Helms) who sets a condition for a personal audience with him; they must kill the Wicked Witch of the West and bring him her broomstick, which they manage to do.

Back at the Wizard’s City they are rewarded with symbols of the brains, heart and courage they have proved they already possessed and used on their adventures. Dorothy is finally returned to Kansas where she is welcomed back, having learned that There is No Place Like Home.

The cast received a standing ovation from the large and appreciative

audience of family and friends.

Mark Considine was the able director of the production, and Mavis MacNeil was the musical director, who conducted a small ensemble of musicians with excellent balance to the singers’ voices, never overwhelming them, but giving a fine full sound.
The talented players included Andrew Koehler on keyboard, Roy MacNeil on violin, Mavis MacNeil on flute and Harrison Martin-O’Brien on drums. The dance arrangements by Peter Howard showed disciplined coordination from the lively childrens’ chorus.

The Munchkins, Poppies, Ozians, Monkeys, Winkeys, Crows and Trees were Peyton Allen, Shilo Allen, Malakai Bigelow, Riley Chapin, Madeline Crank, Amelia Crank, Zoey Cousteau, Camellia Densmore, Jayce Gann, Elfi Goldenrose, Emmett Gordon, Luisa Hadrich-Barkocgi, Mavis Hall, Amelia Hastings, Maddison LaPoint, Julius Lebow, Moss McCurdy, Sophia Molleur, Lucian Berry, Juniper Book, Sadie Gann, Ursa Goldenrose, and Piper Hall. The hard working Tech Crew consisted of Megan Cane, Abe Leveille, Seville Murphy, and Aster Watkeivich, with Lighting by Jonah Fliegleman.

David K. Rodgers

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