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WSHS's 'Oz': Energetic and Comedic

A Cappies review of West Springfield High School's 'The Wizard of Oz'

This Cappies review by Laura Cermak of Oakcrest School is of the Friday, May 4, 2012, performance of "The Wizard of Oz."  The photographs are by student Catherine Ariale.

The Cappies is a critics and awards program, "through which high school theater and journalism students are trained as critics, attend shows at other schools, write reviews, and publish those reviews in local [media]."

Student critics will vote on May 13 for the awards that will be presented at a formal Cappies Gala on Sunday, June 10. Top award honorees from the U.S. and Canada participate in the Cappies International Theater at the Kennedy Center during the summer.

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Over the rainbow, down the yellow brick road, to Oz!  West Springfield High School’s comical, colorful, classic production of “The Wizard of Oz” was complete with bright music and advanced technical feats.

L. Frank Baum’s timeless novel was published in 1900, and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has since been transformed many times on stage and on film.  The most famous adaptation was the 1939 film directed by Victor Fleming, in which Judy Garland played the part of Dorothy.  Other variations include the stage production by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1987, which West Springfield’s show was based off of.  It includes the musical number left out of the 1939 film, “Jitterbug.”  Though it has undergone several developments over the century, “The Wizard of Oz” remains one of the most loved tales of all time.

The show as a whole was filled with energy, technical details, and effective comedic timing.  Whether the actors were individuals or in groups, their characters were clear and defined by unique and entertaining body language and inflection.  There was incredible creativity and attention to detail in the technical aspects, allowing the show to be intricate yet smooth in transitions.  From elegantly executed “The Merry Old Land of Oz” to the “Thriller”-like choreography of “Jitterbug,” the vocals and dances conveyed a wide spectrum of moods.

Elizabeth Garcia starred as Dorothy with a clear voice, good diction, and expressive face.  Her inflection captured Dorothy’s excitement and determination while adding her own originality.  Throughout the performance Garcia’s character blossomed, and so did those of her three companions—Scarecrow (Rick Leith), Tinman (John D’Angelo), and Lion (Drew Holcombe).  The four pals built off of each other’s enthusiasm, depicting their supportive relationship.  Lion’s constant hilarity was epitomized by his regal song “If I Were King,” which he executed with rich, powerful singing and swooping waves of his wooden scepter, until his crown comically tumbled to the floor.

Brittany Morgan played the Wicked Witch with a combination of sarcastic punchlines and villainous cackles that raised the level of energy at every entrance she made.  Billy Millard played the Munchkin Coroner to perfection.  He pronounced the Witch of the East “most sincerely dead” with a funny, jittery voice that brought many bursts of laughter.  The ensembles overall had accurate personalities for each of the roles, but sometimes focusing on choreography distracted from acting in character.  The high point for the ensemble was “The Merry Old Land of Oz,” with their lively dancing and reactions to the bustle of the Emerald City.

Tons of technical elements were involved in this production, and the sheer volume of how much the students tackled is commendable.  Occasionally, changing colored lights was distracting, but the green spotlight on the Wicked Witch while she was flying created a phenomenal silhouette.  The large orchestra was lovely and skilled, although it made it difficult at times to hear the performers.  The crew did an astounding job of transitioning with so many moving parts of the set.  Lastly, the flying effects were done masterfully and received uproars of applause.

West Springfield skillfully tackled the complexity of “The Wizard of Oz” while managing to add its own unique flavor to the performance, creating a show that was endearing, entertaining, and memorable.

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The Wizard of Oz (RSC version) produced with special permission of Tams-Witmark Music Library, Inc.  New York, N.Y. Special Flying Effects by ZFX Flying Effects, Huntington Beach, California.

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