Nevada Union is inviting residents to follow the yellow brick road this February with its rendition of the beloved musical “The Wizard of Oz.”
“It’s incredibly popular, and we always have to make some decisions based on what audiences want to see, and we’ve had a lot of luck producing children’s plays,” said Rob Metcalfe, Nevada Union theater teacher. “In past years, we’ve done ‘Seussical’ and ‘Annie.’ Parents like to bring their kids to things like that.”
Audiences can expect a traditional “Wizard of Oz” story similar to the movie, said Metcalfe, who used the Royal Shakespeare Company’s version, which follows the movie more than the book.
“We chose that version because I thought people would have a certain expectation that it will be similar to the movie,” Metcalfe said. “We want it to be as familiar as possible.”
The play covers the classic story by Frank L. Baum with music and lyrics from the MGM motion picture by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg.
The story involves Dorothy Gale, who is taken off to another land after a frightful twister, where she must meet the great and powerful Wizard of Oz in order to return home and has to defeat the evil Wicked Witch of the West with the help of her friends the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion.
Each part will be played by two students who will switch off the performance days.
“Students are switching off the roles,” Metcalfe said. “Each has six performances.”
Dorothy will be played by Hollie Mudd and Ramie Robertshaw, the Scarecrow by Cooper Hardwick and Cabe Chittock, the Tin Man by Noah Sherry and Lars Montanaro, the Cowardly Lion by Reid Carroll and Chandler Hughes and the Wicked Witch of the West by Maddie Fournier and Leya VanDoren.
Playing such well known characters is challenging but rewarding, said Robertshaw.
“It’s a little bit of pressure being as accurate toward the movie as possible,” Robertshaw said. “But ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ is such an iconic song, and it’s a joy to sing.”
The ability to portray a personality different from your own is a fun experience, said Fournier.
“It’s lots of fun playing the Wicked Witch because I get to be evil when I’m not normally evil,” said Fournier, who helped student-direct the show, which also required some role-playing. “Being a student director is a big change because I don’t like being bossy, but you have to do it.”
A live orchestra by the Nevada Union band will accompany the actors and allows for a more vivid production, Fournier said.
“The live orchestra gets actors and the audience really into it,” Fournier said.
The popularity of the show acts as a benefit and a challenge to the orchestra, said Ken Carter, Nevada Union band director.
“In some ways, it makes it easier because the kids have a reference point, and everyone knows a lot of the music,” Carter said. “It also makes it harder because the kids assume they already know it, and that’s not always the case.”
Though singing with a live orchestra can be difficult when practicing the songs, the result is worthwhile, Robertshaw said.
“The orchestra has to stop until we get the song right, but they’ve been doing it for many years,” Robertshaw said, adding that the orchestra plays for every musical production. “But it sounds so great it’s worth it in the end.”
The funding for the play comes directly from production sales, Metcalfe said.
“Everything we do, providing all this enrichment for kids, is through ticket sales,” Metcalfe said.
The musical will take place at the Don Baggett Theatre 7 p.m. Feb. 1, 2, 8, 14, 15 and 16 with matinees 2 p.m. Saturday and again Feb. 16.
Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the Nevada Union student store, BriarPatch Co-op and the Bookseller.
For information, contact theater director Rob Metcalfe at 530-273-4431, ext. 2102, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The show is ideal for any generation and is a family-friendly production, Fournier said.
“Little kids are really going to enjoy it and have a great time,” Fournier said. “It’s colorful and full of energy.”
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email email@example.com or call (530) 477-4230.