Rochester, TroyMarch 12, 2013
Made in Michigan
By Terry Oparka
C & G Staff Writer
Although Calhoun Koenig, of Rochester, and Madison Strachan, of Troy, weren’t absolutely sure they made the final cut, they dressed with great style to see the local premier of “Oz the Great and Powerful” at the Uptown Palladium 12 in Birmingham March 8.
The girls were handpicked by Royal Oak-born director Sam Raimi in the fall of 2011 and worked on the set for six days at Raleigh Michigan Studios in Pontiac.
The Disney film, described as a prequel to the 1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz,” tells the origins of the Wizard of Oz, the character from L. Frank Baum’s book “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” on which the movie was based.
The Raimi film stars James Franco as Oscar Diggs, a magician who finds himself in the Land of Oz. He meets three witches played by Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams. Diggs must figure out how to help the people of Oz and combat evil, at the same time.
Koenig and Strachan play Quadlings in the film. Koenig shot a scene in which she said two lines with Michelle Williams.
Koenig and Strachan have been taking dance lessons since they were 3. Their mothers met at a dress rehearsal for a dance recital and discovered their daughters had strong aspirations for the stage. The women shared information about auditions around town, and both girls got called back to be extras in Oz.
Koenig is featured in one of the movie trailers on the movie’s website. “I had crazy hair and an awesome costume,” Calhoun said. “I would really like to do much more acting.”
She’s appeared in “Seussical Jr.” and “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Warren Civic Center, as Annie in “Annie” at the Box Theatre in Mount Clemens and young Cosette in “Les Miserables” at the Warren Consolidated Schools Performing Arts Center in Sterling Heights. Her mother, Nancy Oeswein, who trained as an opera singer, discovered that her daughter, at age 7, had perfect pitch and a strong singing voice.
“Music got her into the theater,” Oeswein said. Raimi auditioned all the children playing extras for the lines that Koenig said.
“He said, ‘All right Callie, you’re my girl,’” Koenig said. After shooting finished that day, she got to watch the dailies with Raimi.
“She said to him, ‘That’s really cool,’” Oeswein said. “And he said, ‘It is really cool.’”
The girls got together for a sleepover the weekend before the premier to make bracelets to wear with their glam outfits.
Madison Strachan’s third-grade teacher at Troy Union Elementary cast her as Dorothy in the schools’ production of “The Wizard of Oz.”
She took first place in the duet competition at the American Guild of Music competition in Troy this past summer.
Although Strachan does not have speaking lines in the film, she is featured on the Disney website promoting the movie and she got an autograph from James Franco.
“His (Franco’s) agent said, ‘He took a liking to your daughter,’” Madison’s mom, Christine Strachan, said. “She was called the front-and-center girl for the scene on the steps,” Christine said. “Michelle Williams hugged her and said, ‘You’re doing a good job.’”
The girls planned to call it a fairly early night after the March 8 premier at the Palladium because they both planned to audition for the Stagecrafters upcoming production of “The Sound of Music” at a 7 a.m. casting call the next morning.
“I like to act,” Strachan said. “It makes me feel good. When I get nervous, I tell myself everything’s going to be OK and I’m not going to mess up.”
Koenig said acting is a fun way to relieve stress. “I can’t imagine my life without it.”