By Elizabeth Sheeran
A yellow brick road. An Emerald City. Ruby slippers. The colorful Land of Oz has captured imaginations for over a century. Now Somerville High School (SHS) will bring The Wizard of Oz to life onstage, from January 31 through February 2 at the Somerville Theatre in Davis Square.
This adaptation of the classic tale is based on the epic 1939 film, which in turn was based on the 1900 book by L. Frank Baum. It features the most beloved songs from the movie, including Over the Rainbow, We’re Off to See the Wizard, and Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead. But the stage version also boasts new musical numbers and enough surprises to make it a whole new experience, even for frequent travelers to Oz.
“We all have an expectation based on the movie,” said stage director Sarajane Mullins. “But this is live theatre, and there’s nothing else like it.”
The Wizard of Oz has always been a story enjoyed by audience members of all ages. But the teen cast members find it especially easy to identify with the young heroine Dorothy, navigating her way through a strange new world on her quest to find a way home. “It’s a coming of age story,” said senior Angelina O’Brien, who plays Dorothy. “The whole idea with Dorothy is innocence, but wanting something more.”
That’s not the only way the cast and crew can relate, since life imitated art in October: Rehearsing the story of a girl whose home is uprooted by a tornado, they suddenly found themselves without a performance space because Hurricane Sandy tore the roof off the high school auditorium.
Moving the performance offsite to the Somerville Theatre presents all kinds of challenges for a cast and crew who are used to having months to master the space. But stage manager Caitlin Lewis, a junior, said the extra effort will be worth it because students will get the chance to work in a professional theatre.
“It’s going to be really hard to get used to new space. We’re used to practicing where we do the show so we’re going to have to re-block the entire play in a way. But it should be fun. It’s a new experience. I’m excited,” said Lewis.
The more than 30 high schoolers in the cast and crew aren’t the only ones excited about bringing The Wizard of Oz to Davis Square. This year the high school musical family has been expanded to include 33 third, fourth and fifth-graders from seven different Somerville public elementary schools, who play Munchkins in the Land of Oz.
“We get to sing so a lot of people can hear us,” said Brady Sullivan, a third grader at the Winter Hill School. “It’s at the Somerville Theatre and a lot of people will see it and a lot of people get to hear us sing.”
Brown School third graders Amanda Hook and Carter Wood, who are both in the Munchkinland’s “Lullaby League,” said the best part of being in the show was getting a chance to act. “I like pretending to be these really cool creatures,” said Hook. “We’re really little and cute and we have squeaky high voices.”
Wood said it’s fun being in a show with high school students. “I also like watching the older actors performing their scenes when we’re just sitting in the audience, but I really like acting too,” she said. “I think it’s just fun acting in it and being part of it.”
The Wizard of Oz will be performed at the Somerville Theatre, 55 Davis Square, on January 31 and February 1 at 7 p.m. and February 2 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $6 for students and $8 general admission, and can be purchased at the door.
The show is produced by Rosemary Sears, with stage direction, choreography and costuming by Sarajane Mullins, and musical direction and technical supervision by SHS Band Director Richard Romanoff.
The cast features Somerville High students Tara Jean-Baptiste, Michael Buckley, Connie Chan, Milton Diaz, Nickolas Eliadis, Judcine Felix, Loic Fitanides, Eliza Forrest, Nicole Gouveia, Tyler Jacques, Meghan Lynch, Julian Layton, Meghan Lynch, Gabi Mathews, Nickolas Menezes, Angelina O’Brien, Jennifer Silva, Talya Sogoba, Molly Swanton and Brianna Xavier.
Also featured are elementary school students Klaryssah Albani, Kailee Antimone, Jose Beriguete, Caroline Breen, Susanna Buckley, Emilee C. Butler, Claudia Cooper, Victoria de los Reyes Ortiz, Kamyla Domascimento, Makayla Fenton, Caitlin Fitzgerald, Ronan Fitzgerald, Jasmine Fridman, Kira Guardia, Amanda Hook, Sam Hook, Emily Howley, Domenic Hoxholli, Rio Hunter-Black, Shamiah Jenkins, Alexandra Jones, Leo Perez-Loynd, Isabella Milanowski, Natalie Morgan, Megan O’Leary, Aidan O’Sullivan, Tyler Pinheiro, Matthew Portle, Owen Sheehy, Brady Sullivan, Marco White, Calvin Wicks and Carter Wood.
Student crew members include Brian Andrick, Michael Andrick, Larry Barnes, Colleen Hennelly, Kalvin Janik, Graham Lessard-Brandt, Brigid Long, Jennifer Matthews, Sean McMahon, Steven Moreira, and Matthew Sahlas. SHS musicians Brenna Forristall, Ruth Grossman and Celine Lessard-Brandt will play alongside the live professional orchestra that will accompany the production.
For more information, go to www.somerville.k12.ma.us/musical.