Walled Lake Northern students ready to shine in ‘The Wizard of Oz’

By: Sherri Kolade | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published April 12, 2013

 Walled Lake Northern High School Musical producer and director Mike Peterson sings along with students April 8 at a rehearsal.

Walled Lake Northern High School Musical producer and director Mike Peterson sings along with students April 8 at a rehearsal.

Photo by Donna Agusti

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WALLED LAKE — Walled Lake Northern High School student Morgan Barnett, like the famous character she plays, learned recently that there really is no place like home.

But instead of finding that out after traveling a metaphorical yellow brick road, the White Lake senior had an epiphany during her senior year.

“At the beginning of (‘The Wizard of Oz,’ Dorothy) wants to go somewhere she is not. And I’ve always wanted to travel and I’ve always been saying, ‘I am looking forward to growing up and going different places.’ But then, now it is senior year, and I feel like I am nervous,” Barnett said. “At the end of the show, (Dorothy) realizes it is all about home and ‘home is where the heart is’ kind of thing. I feel like I am kind of making that realization this year, and the show kind of goes along with it.”

Barnett and more than 100 of her peers will perform in the “The Wizard of Oz,” presented by Walled Lake Northern High School Performing Arts, April 18-21 at the school, 6000 Bogie Lake Road in Commerce.

Evening performances will start at 7:30 p.m., with two afternoon matinee performances at 2 p.m. April 20 and April 21.

The roughly $20,000 production is produced by WLNHS musical producer and director Mike Peterson, and it is directed by English teacher Andrew Ballnik.

Even though the play gives a nod to the traditional 1939 movie version starring Judy Garland, Ballnik said the “technically ambitious” production will have purposefully skewed angles for a steam-punk theme, also described as Victorian-era industrial.

“Steam punk (includes) lots of metals,” Ballnik told the Beacon during play rehearsal recently. “We’re going to have gears everywhere, with a clock motif that is going all over the place. I’m very excited to see this concept on stage. Our set designer has shown me pictures, and I think that is what is going to highlight the show.”

Ballnik said everything created for the set is crooked.

“Everything is a little odd to the eye,” he said. “I told my set designer, ‘Not one straight line.’ From the costumes to the set, to even how they are walking. I wanted kids to have fun with it, to come up with their own characters, because they are giving up their own free time; it is a way of expressing themselves.”

Barnett is used to expressing herself. She has acted in numerous plays for the past six years. But when she learned that she was chosen as Dorothy, her first lead role, it came as a pleasant surprise.

“It didn’t hit me until rehearsal started,” she said. “I’ve been seeing shows since kindergarten, and ‘Annie’ was the first show I saw, and I’ve been wanting to be the lead, and this is my first opportunity. It is crazy and it is going by so fast and I love being the one everybody looks up to.”

Barnett said she and her character are similar in more ways than one.

“When I sing ‘Over the Rainbow,’ there is the line, ‘dreams really do come true,’ and when I sing that, I get chills every time I sing it,” she said.

Barnett said she feels like her dreams have come true, especially during her final year at WLNHS.

“This year has been the best year of my life, so far,” Barnett said. “I was homecoming queen, so I feel like everything is coming into place for me.”

Barnett said that, when the spotlight fades away and the curtains are drawn, she may shed a tear or two.

“I think I will probably cry when it is over,” Barnett said. “I will miss being at rehearsals every day. It is kind of like a family, ’cause you’re with these people all the time.”

WLNHS senior Kyla Wright, who plays Glinda the Good Witch, said “The Wizard of Oz” is her favorite movie, and she feels like she is ending her high school year on a high note.

“This year, I have a lead, which is cool,” Wright said. Wright said her favorite scene in the play is when she will fly in a bubble, with the help of a harness, and tell Dorothy that, in order to find her way home, she must go see the Wizard.

“I also meet the Wicked Witch and give Dorothy her red shoes,” the Commerce Township resident said. “It is my first time flying, but I’m not afraid of heights. It should be OK.”

Peterson said the play will be something different and unique, but people will still be able to recognize it.

“The show is still ‘The Wizard of Oz,’” Peterson said. “It is the same songs … but we are creating a new and inventive show, so it’s not like every other (production). I look forward to seeing a lot of people in these seats. We hope there is magic.”

Tickets are $14 for adults, $12 for students and senior citizens. Tickets may be purchased online through www.wlcstickets.com or by calling the Walled Lake Northern box office at (248) 956-5465.

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