They’re off to see the wizard

Jacob Lane · Tuesday, March 7, 2017
The Junior High Vocal Department presented the Wizard of Oz in glorious technicolor, March 2-4, in the West Liberty High School Auditorium.

Director Brenda Miller and her cast of 45 junior high students brought the beloved classic to life for three nights in front of an eager audience.

Rachel Aird took on the momentous role of Dorothy, while Ben Haskell, Daniel Zeman and Ashton LeMay played the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion.

“It’s been so much fun,” said Valeria Madrigal, who took the role of the infamous antagonist the Wicked Witch of the West.

“At first I was nervous about it, but then I got into character,” she added. “My favorite part of it all has definitely been seeing people smile when they see me.”

Oh they smiled all right, they also jumped in terror when Madrigal appeared out of nowhere in the aisle with her screeching wicked witch laugh. Ha ha ha!

“I didn’t have to work on it that long, I don’t know why but it just kind of comes to me,” she says of the laugh. “I have no idea why.”

There were a lot of highlights from the evening; however, the cast of the Wizard of Oz will remain one of its buggest successes. Every actor just sort-of jelled with his/her alter ego.

Rachel Aired not only looked the part, but sang just as beautifully as Judy Garland during her rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

The tall and lanky Ben Haskell had just the right amount of goofiness to play the scarecrow. One of the best line deliveries of the evening came from the “brainless” character:

“Some people without brains do an awful lot of talking,” he stated flatly to Dorothy, nearly receiving a standing applause for the line.

Meanwhile, Daniel Zeman may just be the tinman in real life, though he already has a heart. As his legs clatters before the all powerful Oz he also brought on several laughs.

The original fantasy musical comedy-drama film was released in 1939, based off the 1900 novel of the same name. It has been called one of the greatest films of all time.

Apparently the classic still holds some clout with today’s student performers. Ashton LeMay, 8th grade, perfectly mimicked Bert Lahr’s “The Cowardly Lion” from 75 years ago.

“I watched the movie a lot when I was little, so I just remembered the part really well,” he said. “It helped with the acting and who I was supposed to be.”

Fully adorned in a Cowardly Lion getup, LeMay was the last of the three travelers to join Dorothy on her way to Emerald City. But, he was certainly not the least.

Both heart warming and spot on, his rendition of “If I were King of the Forest” was one of the highlights of the evening as he carried his tail pridefully.

“Getting out there and roaring in front of everybody just wasn’t my thing,” LeMays adds. “But, it just gets easier. This is the first time I’ve ever done anything like this.”

One could tell Neddie Sasmazer put a lot of thought into his portrayal of the Mayor of Munchkinland. Meanwhile, Reynolds Heath (spoiler alert) embodied the Wizard of Oz.

Student performances were accentuated by the costumes, thanks to Olivia Smith.

You might have thought you were watching the movie as the main characters joined arms and skipped off to see the the wonderful Wizard of Oz.

The Tinman looked galvanized, the Wicked Witch was incredibly green with her signature pointy hat and the Cowardly Lion looked like a lion, oh my!

In fact, preparation for the grand piece began all the way back in December. The Wizard of Oz included several musical numbers, some of which used more than 20student actors at a time.

Most notably, the Jitter Bug scene had many of the performers sneak out in a black get-up with neon lights. Eventually it turned into a large-scale dance-off that terrorized the main cast.

If you missed that scene in the movie, don’t worry, it was cut from the original production. However, it made its way onto West Liberty’s stage.

The munchkins and Munchkinland were also a sight to behold. With a giant yellow brick road backdrop, they sang Dorothy off on her journey.

West Liberty’s production also included apple throwing trees, flying monkeys, castle guards, ruby red slippers and a hot air balloon.

It was quite a feat, and a notable one at that under Director Brenda Miller.

She was aided by Mrs. Shawna McCleod and the middle school art class who painted backdrops for the sets. WLHS Band Director Ashley Smith performed all of the music via piano.

Stage managers included Jodi Kelly, Laura Rodriguez and Jason Aird. The show was aided by several high school students.

In fact, if West Liberty’s Wizard of Oz was a movie in itself, it would have just as many credits role down the ending screen as a block buster film, this was truly a community effort.
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