FHS theater students to present ‘Wizard of Oz’ starting March 21

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published March 11, 2015

 From left, Elliot Reid, Christian Scott and Henry Parmenter, part of The Lollipop Guild in Ferndale High School’s production of “The Wizard of Oz,” rehearse their dances at the high school.

From left, Elliot Reid, Christian Scott and Henry Parmenter, part of The Lollipop Guild in Ferndale High School’s production of “The Wizard of Oz,” rehearse their dances at the high school.

Photo courtesy of Linda Parton

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FERNDALE — “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” was first published in 1900, and a movie followed in 1939, which quickly became renowned for its music and art production.


Now, 115 years after L. Frank Baum released his novel and 76 years after the movie became an instant hit, theater students at Ferndale High School are hoping to keep Dorothy and her companions at the forefront when they present five performances of “The Wizard of Oz” between March 21 and 29.


“The movie came out in 1939, so my generation would have been the first to see it on television as a big event,” producer Judy Donlin said. “So these students are the second or third generation removed from when the movie came out, and when it was announced (as the theater production), they were all familiar with it. Everyone knows ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ the plot, the beloved story, and it is just a classic.


“I’m not sure many of them knew it could be made on stage, so it is exciting to bring it live and show it is not only a movie.”


About 100 students are part of the production of the show, but it isn’t just the high school students, as the production team brought in middle and elementary school students to help with several of the characters in the Land of Oz.


Donlin said that while most of the students have seen and are familiar with the movie, the play is able to offer a few surprises.


“There are a few things in the stage play that were not in the movie, so even people familiar with the movie will see some new things,” she said. “There were songs that were not part of the movie and dances not part of the movie. And we have kids playing multiple characters, anywhere from three to six, so they are constantly moving and changing characters, and that is a lot of fun and challenging.”


While the students and production team have a chance to bring some unseen scenes to the stage, they also will have the opportunity to recreate some of the classic scenes from the movie. Donlin said the team worked hard on creating a multimedia version of the tornado scene, including students carrying various items on stage to represent the stuff Dorothy sees out the window.


For FHS junior Cameron Blackwell, who will be playing the Cowardly Lion, his favorite scene is when the four main characters arrive at the Emerald City.


“I think my favorite scene is when we finally make it and everyone is so happy and jolly, and the fab four get fixed up with a lot of fun singing and dancing,” Blackwell said. “I think with all of the music and the famous lines in it, as well as the costumes and makeup and the whole storyline, it is all pretty intriguing.”


Getting the role of the Cowardly Lion meant Blackwell would be front and center for a big portion of the production, but for him, it was an opportunity to expand his skills on the stage.


“Playing the lion was a role I have always wanted, as I grew up watching the movie many times,” Blackwell said. “When I first got the role, I knew it would be a bit of a challenge. I am working with so many lines, but I am very happy that I got it and I have support that helped me get through it all. It is just a fun role to play.”


Outside the main cast, which sees Katie Akers as Dorothy, Ny’Ea Reynolds as the Scarecrow and Trenton Carson as the Tin Man, another big part of putting the play together is the director, Melissa Smith.


Smith has worked as director of the FHS plays since 2009, as well as producing plays outside the high school. Donlin said having someone like Smith directing gets the best out of every scene.


“Melissa is a gifted director and is wonderful at drawing out what she needs from people in various roles, and (she) pays attention to every little detail,” Donlin said. “She is wonderful at working with the kids and teaching them, and everybody just likes working with her. Nothing escapes her when putting together a production.”


Opening night will take place at 7:30 p.m. March 21 at Ferndale High School, 881 Pinecrest Drive, with 3 p.m. shows March 22 and 29 and 7:30 p.m. shows March 27 and 28. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students and seniors. Tickets are available for purchase at www.ferndaletheatre.org.

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