[ATTENDED: February 27, 2016] The Wizard of Oz
Back in February, Tabitha and I went to the Montgomery High School’s production of The Little Mermaid. I was pretty sure they did two performances a year, so I was surprised to see them advertising The Wizard of Oz already.
This turned out to be not the high school actors but a group of semi- and non-professional adults. Best of all, the entire cast was made up of teachers and faculty from the Montgomery School System.
All four of us were going to go, but Clark had a sleepover the night before, which meant no sleeping, so he crashed while we went to the play.
This production was for something called Music from the Heart. As the blurb noted:
The Montgomery Township Education Association and Montgomery High School Band Parents Association present the musical The Wizard of Oz for the fifteenth production of Music from the Heart! The fully volunteer cast and crew are assembled from an eager group of district teachers, support staff, administrators, and students. Proceeds from the production fund the graduating senior class scholarships awarded by both the MTEA and MHS Band Parents Association.
I’m all for helping out band and education associations, and since their Theater is amazing, I figured it would be a good show.
And boy was it.
They based their play on the movie, not the book (smart). As it opened up, I was delighted that the characters were all dressed in black and white and even the backdrop was grayscale. Excellent!
In fact, I have to interrupt myself to say that the backdrops were really stunning. I don’t know if they rented them (I assume so), but the black and white was great and then there were really beautiful colors once they got to Oz. For yes, as soon as the tornado came and Dorothy was whisked to Oz, the backdrops were in color, the people were dressed in color and even Dorothy’s gingham dress, which was black in the first scene, became blue–genius!
The standout performances for me were The Scarecrow–[Bill Dominic: German and Latin teacher and asst. fencing coach]. He really managed to flop around and look limbless–it was really impressive. The Cowardly Lion–[Scott Mason: history teacher for 21 years]. He had the role down perfectly–tone and comedy were spot on. And the Wicked Witch of the West [Genifer Leimbacher: 2nd grade teacher for ten years] was amazing–the shrieking, the cackling–it was perfect. I would have been so psyched to see my 2nd grade teacher doing that.
Dorothy [Brady Chenot: learning consultant] was also very good. She sang quite wonderfully, especially in one of the final songs where she hit a high note that was truly impressive.
This is not to say that other actors weren’t good, because everyone was really good. It was fun to see some of the students as Munchkins (although most were played by adults–and their costumes were perfect to make you forget that they were adults). Those who had small roles (marching soldiers) seemed to be enjoying themselves. And I really enjoyed the trees (throwing apples) and the crows who were clearly having a great time.
The one mild disappointment with the show was that I was sure they were going to do wire work. Having seen the amazing wire work they did with The Little Mermaid, I thought–tornadoes, flying monkeys, hot air balloons–so many wires! But no. No wires in this show. However, their replacements for wires were fun and whimsical. The tornado scene was really funny because they had people walking around spinning while holding farm animals. The way they did the hot air balloon was funny but also cleaver. And the flying monkeys may not have flown, but they were suitably creepy.
I was also delighted that they used a real dog for Toto. This dog behaved herself very well, although she didn’t always go where she was supposed to (which brought good-natured laughter from everyone).
The band (their orchestra pit is so cool looking) was great–Sarah and I forgot it was a live band on many occasions.
I have seen the movie of The Wizard of Oz (obviously), but I don’t know it that well. So I know they took some scenes out, although I don’t know which ones. I know there was no “Lollipop Guild” which was kind of surprising. In fact, they chopped out a ton of stuff from the Munchkinland section, which I recall being much longer. They also included “The Jitterbug” which neither Sarah nor I recognized, but which was a fun song. I just looked up that it was written for the film but not included in it (it is on soundtracks though).
I thought it was interesting that pretty much all of the good songs are in the first half of the play–all the ones everyone knows, anyhow. Act II has a few songs but it is mostly the witch and the revelation of Oz.
Oh, the melting witch scene was done very cleverly–again, the witch was awesome.
Before the show and during “intermission” there was a speech explaining about Music from the Heart and announcing where the scholarships were going and in whose name they were being awarded. This was fine and actually quite interesting; however, they did not permit an actual intermission, for some reason. We weren’t even supposed to leave the theater (they kept the house lights dark). But the audience was filled with children and there was no way they were sitting still for that long. They probably would have sold a lot more snacks if they’d given us 15 minutes. Weird choice.
My only regret is that last year they performed Grease (I remember seeing signs for it) and I really wish we had gone to see that–it sounds like a blast.