For an audience, the thing that attracts them to musical theater is the final product—The finished music, lighting, costumes, and of course the polished performance from talented actors. However, the things that go on behind the scenes are just as entertaining to watch. As the entire cast and crew in Lebanon High School’s Wizard of Oz musical work endlessly to put together a perfect show, their rehearsals are full of laughs and many memorable moments.
Senior Jill Merritt has been cast as the lead in the musical as Dorothy Gale. She was quite literally swept off her feet when she was informed that she had gotten the lead, mostly because she had only played small parts in theater productions in the past.
“I have to really act now, because I have solo scenes and I have to learn how to do a lot of stuff. There have been only about three days that I have not had to come to practice, because those are the scenes I am not in. It is a big commitment for sure,” Merritt said.
Although Merritt has been making progress with her lines and stage directions, she holds off on saying she has accomplished anything yet and wants to wait until she performs onstage in front of her peers, family, and community.
“I have not pulled anything off yet, but I will be proud of myself when I do,” Merritt said.
Merritt is very excited about the costumes, and also about the fact that Ellie the dog is going to be playing Toto, Dorothy’s infamous sidekick.
For the past week, junior Tucker Ransom has been in nervous anticipation for his upcoming performance. He admitted that his part in the show is not without its challenges, though, as he has had a tough time creating a distinct voice for his character, the Cowardly Lion.
“One of my biggest challenges was trying to nail the intonation of my character’s voice, because I play the lion, and it is so unlike my own personality. We are complete opposites. I am still working on it, and it is getting better as I go, so that is all that matters,” Ransom said.
Ransom feels that he has a lot of work to go before he roars under the lights at showtime, but he is proud of the cast’s and crew’s accomplishments thus far. One thing Ransom said he particularly enjoyed, as his cast members laughed on the stage behind him, was the chemistry everybody has on stage.
“Our connection onstage has gone really well. There is such a good bond, which is great for acting because it makes it so much easier to explore different characters,” Ransom said.
As young as he may be, sophomore Neil Acton is playing the role as the Tin Man, and he has no doubt that the entire show will be a resounding success. Acton and his father built the iconic Tin Man costume in their own garage, constructed out of real tin.
“I have my character built, and now it just comes down to completely memorizing my lines. I think the biggest challenge I have faced was finishing my costume, which my dad and I made by ourselves,” Acton said.
Acton said that his favorite part of his experience in the play are rehearsals.
“We run the scenes, and the things we need to get fixed are obviously fixed. I also get to know a lot more people, which is a lot of fun to do,” Acton said.
Junior Elizabeth Holmes is excited but nervous to play her first big role, the Wicked Witch of The West.
“I have had a few small lines and singing parts in my past experience with theater, but now I have my own designated costume and my own lines, and my own script book. It is kind of a big thing when you get your first script book,” Holmes said.
Holmes is very excited to get to show week, although she has been through many obstacles in order to be prepared. Like many in the production, the hardest feat she has had to overcome has been memorizing all of her lines. Despite this, she is proud of her cast’s ability to work through these obstacles.
“There is that awesome moment when you read your lines, and you do not mess up and you are like, ‘Hey, I knew that!’ You realize that you are psyching yourself out over something that you know and it is just because you are nervous,” Holmes said.
Junior Evan Wolfgang believes that everything is coming together exactly as it should. He is confident in the costumes, sets, and characters, and he believes that everything is going smoothly. The main challenge that he has faced, however, has been mastering his character, The Scarecrow, and his unique movements onstage.
“Having a book in my hand really hinders me, especially for this show where my character is so physical. It’s hard to do the physical actions with the book in your hand, and you cannot really emote right. You really have to be memorized before you get into the juicy stuff,” Wolfgang said.
To Wolfgang, playing the scarecrow is a daunting task, but he is proud of himself in the actions he has taken to master the character.
“I am really working on that boneless nature of Scarecrow. It takes a lot of trial and error and the legs are a challenge specifically, because there is so much weight in the legs. I have not quite one-hundred percent gotten it down, but I am getting there and I am proud of my entire characterization,” Wolfgang said.
Freshman Johara El-Shahat is playing a Winkie, one of the Wicked Witches’ minions, in the production. Although she has a small role now, she plans to work her way up to play bigger roles in future productions.
“I have done a lot of musicals and plays before so I do not get scared of audiences like people normally do. With this experience I am getting a stronger voice, and I am proud of that,” El-Shahat said.
Tech Week happens the week before showtime, and all cast and crew members alike are prepared to brave the frustration that comes with putting the many pieces of a musical together. It is imperative that the lights, sound, costumes, and lines run smoothly and perfectly, although the cast and crew know it definitely does not always go as planned.
“At this point, the actors know the show, but the tech crew does not quite yet. Getting them on the same page as you can be a bit difficult. Some of the terminology with directions that we use is pretty obscure and we have to teach the tech crew what it means. It is kind of like speaking two different languages, honestly,” Acton said.
Senior Hunter Smith has been on tech crew and done the lighting for many plays and musicals at LHS.
“I think the hard part is trying to find out what the director wants and needs for the show and getting everything organized. I think I have figured out a lot of things while doing the lights for the plays and musicals throughout the years, and I have excelled doing that,” Smith said.
Despite this, though, everybody involved in the show is determined to get through Tech Week and experience the relief of putting on the best show they possibly can for the community.
“It is a very high pressure, high stakes moment. Tech Week is finally when it sets in that we have a show to put on, and it all comes down to the wire,” Ransom said.
Costuming has felt like a full-time job to Costuming Director Michelle McKaig. From frequent trips to the local Goodwill store and fitting multiple students at a time, McKaig has been burning the candle at both ends to make sure each character looks perfect.
“Most people are expecting Judy Garland level costumes, and we are not Hollywood. Most of the costumes are borrowed and handmade, and that makes it difficult to compare to the elaborate costumes in the film,” McKaig said.
Although she is proud of all the costumes she created, McKaig gave tips on which costumes to look out for when showtime comes, as they are her favorite parts of her work.
“Glenda’s dress and the opening scene for Munchkin land are the things that I am most excited about costume-wise. They are going to be amazing,” McKaig said.
During practice, the set and prop designers were endlessly painting away, brushing neon and pastel colored paint onto brightly colored wooden pieces all around the stage. The backstage area was completely littered with flowers of every color and props that looked like they belonged in The Wizard of Oz movie itself. With such a colorful and complex set, it has been all hands on deck for the set crew.
Junior Skylar Berthon believes that the set design is right on track and the sets and props crew has accomplished a lot so far.
“We are getting a lot more done and have a lot more help than we did last year, and things are definitely going faster. There are a lot of things like painting that take some time to do, but we are in good shape,” Berthon said.
Junior Heather McKay is also helping out on set, and believes things are going to come out beautifully.
“It’s a lot of fun being able to help out on set and see everything come together,” McKay said.
The head director of this year’s musical, Gwen Schoeff, picked The Wizard of Ozbecause she believed it would be a resounding crowd-pleaser with distinct and classic characters.
“Last year’s show, 42ndStreet, was a bit obscure, and this year I wanted to do something that was more famous and popular. I also wanted it to be a character show. With this musical being so well-known, I was hoping to draw more people in to wanting to see it,” Schoeff said.
Schoeff mentioned that there are a lot of features in this musical that the cast and crew were not quite used to, but were eager to handle.
“We are using a real dog, we are using real elementary school kids for munchkins, and we are hiring out a flying company. These are all elements that are not normally part of a show, and they create opportunities for learning experiences for us all,” Schoeff said.
The cast and crew are very proud of the show they are tirelessly working to put together, and they are eager for showtime when their work can finally be recognized. All in all, they appreciate the laughs, bursts of creativity, and unforgettable memories that the show has given them.
Lebanon High School’s Production of The Wizard of Oz musical will be premiering on November 22ndthrough the 24th. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door, $15 for adults and $10 for students. On Friday night’s show, kids 12 and under can enter for free.