Wizard wows at Barnstable High School
Written by Kathleen Szmit
When Barnstable High School Drama Club President Matt Kohler said that The Wizard of Oz would be the club’s best show ever, he wasn’t simply trying to sell tickets. He was right.
Expectations were great for the much-ballyhooed production, buzzed about since it was revealed that its every detail was to be filmed for a WB Webcast. In spite of, or perhaps because of, the pressures, the cast and crew did not disappoint.
Even before the curtain rose over the stage of the Performing Arts Center at BHS for the first performance on March 28, every seat in the expansive auditorium was filled.
When that curtain rose, all 1,400 let out a collective gasp at the detailed set, intricately painted by Ethan Brown, Vanessa Varjian and Jess Emerson. For a short while it felt as though everyone truly was in Kansas; the scenery was that realistic.
Then the real magic began, with the Ozian Cast, one of three selected by director John Sullivan, taking folks along on a wonderful adventure.
The first time I saw The Wizard of Oz movie, on which the BHS production is based, I was barely out of toddlerhood. Although terribly frightened by the witch and her flying monkeys, I was hooked and it became a tradition when it was on TV to watch, peeking through the blankets when the witch’s green face appeared.
As I watched Oz unfold onstage at BHS, I was immediately transported back to those days of innocence and the spectrum of emotions evoked by the storyline.
When folks know a show it can be difficult to impress, especially because your audience might be looking for familiarity. The BHS Drama Club took that concern to heart and created a production that even the cast of the MGM classic would be proud of.
From her mannerisms to her speaking voice, it was as though Kelly Mosher, in the role of Dorothy, was channeling Judy Garland herself. Doubters were duly silenced when Mosher sang the favorite tune, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” flawlessly.
Dorothy’s traveling companions, Chris Houghton as the Scarecrow, Shane Harris as the Tin Man, and Kohler as the Lion were equally outstanding, boasting smooth singing voices and nailing the quirky characteristics of each role.
The Totos, both the real pup and the Oz Toto, deserve mention as well. The actual canine, Callie Meyers, was spectacularly well behaved and the epitome of cute, while Jack Wood as the Oz Toto, was equally adorable in his doggie portrayal.
Let’s not forget the witches. Molly Handel captured the enchanting essence of Glinda the Good Witch, while Jess Emerson was spot-on as The Wicked Witch of the West. From her green face to her perfect voice, I was left wishing for blankets to peer through.
Especially impressive was that each actor added his or her own special flavor to a role while maintaining the original and much-loved affectations of those from the 1939 cinematic gem.
To mention each performer and show highlight would require space this paper doesn’t have. There are so many: the adorable and brightly dressed Munchkins, the festive field of poppies, the swarm of Flying Monkeys, including two who really flew, and more. Each moment brought a new feast for the senses.
Of course, it wouldn’t be The Wizard without the music. Backed by a sizeable orchestra conducted by Michael Gross, the BHS production included each of the beloved tunes from the film, while adding in two that had been cut in 1939 -- “The Jitterbug” and a medley of “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” and “Merry Old Land of Oz.”
Caitlin Gardipe, one of the production’s three Dorothys, also had the task of choreographing the show, including the energetic “Jitterbug” dance featuring a stage full of Jitterbuggers accompanying the song.
The costume crew, helmed by Karen Mannal, deserves immense praise for hand-sewing each Flying Monkey suit, poppy flower, and Munchkin lapel. Every outfit was beautifully detailed.
Fortunately, the quick-thinking cast revived the momentum by finding a way to segue into the next tune, barely missing a beat.
Throughout the show I had to repeatedly remind myself that this was a high school production. Given the complex sets, the dynamic effects, the singing and acting talent, and the stunning costumes, it’s no wonder. My only disappointment is in not being able to see every cast.
Because of the popularity of this monumental production, however, I might be able to sneak in one more viewing, as Sullivan and his crew have added an extra show to accommodate those unable to get tickets to the rest of the sold-out performances.
I hope everyone gets to see this show for it is well worth its ticket price. Like the Great Wizard says, “It is not how much you love that matters, but rather how much you are loved by others.”
This show is one to love!