‘The Wizard of Oz’ at Thomas Wootton High School by Jane Coyne

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Lions, and tigers, and bears! Oh, my!

Every arts organization in the country seems to be looking for the key to attracting multi-generational audiences to their performances. I would like to start this review by saying that I saw what I consider to be the perfect audience at Wootton High School on Sunday, March 18, 2012, at 2 pm. Everybody was happy and well behaved. In roughly equal numbers, kids, parents, and grandparents filled the seats. They were there to see Dorothy, a Scarecrow, a Tin Man and a Cowardly Lion …Glinda the Good Witch, the Wicked Witch of the West, a Wizard, and the most darling little Munchkins imaginable.

If you’re looking for a family friendly show, it’s hard to beat The Wizard of Oz, and Wootton’s production is both fresh and delightful. Directed by Jessica Speck, with assistance from former Wootton choral teacher Carla Ingram, Choreographer Nancy Newell, crew director Stephanie Daisley, Music Director Carolyn Herman and Producer Sue Thorpe, the production features a cast of 60 Wootton students and more than 30 local elementary school Munchkins, 50 crew members, and a 50 piece orchestra.

Adam Uslan (Scarecrow) and Crows. Photo by Joe McCary.

The Wizard of Oz is an American treasure. The good news about this is that virtually everybody knows and loves this timeless story. The bad news is that the performances of Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, and all the iconic cast of the famous 1939 MGM movie in which they starred are firmly entrenched in our minds. Inviting comparison is unwise, and Speck was smart to caution her young cast to portray their characters and make them their own rather than attempting to channel performances of world famous actors.

Kayli Modell was well cast and always believable as Dorothy. She is a fine singer and dancer, but it was her honest emotion and acting that pulled me into the story. I was very impressed with and humored by Mitchell Myers, whose stereotypical neurotic New York Jewish lion seemed as if he should join Woody Allen’s characters in therapy, and I also found Lauren Goldberger, who offered up an unexpected citified and snappy Almira Gultch, who sounded as if she may have been transported to the middle of Kansas in some earlier tornado, to be very interesting. Corrieanne Stein was beautifully serene in her role as Glinda, the good witch. I loved Adam Uslan as the Scarecrow. His youthful energy was constant, and he was very funny, as was his counterpart, Joshua Yu, in the role of Zeke. Elgin Martin was exceptional as the Guard. I enjoyed his voice, his eyes, and his sassy attitude. Olivia Speck turned in a wonderfully energetic and impressive performance as the Munchkin coroner. And then there was Toto. What a great dog … and so well behaved that he easily could have stayed onstage throughout the entire show! He could not have been better cast, and he was simply irresistible as he popped his head out of baskets and from behind curtains.

Adam Uslan (Scarecrow), Kayli Modell (Dorothy), Landon Fleishman (Tin Man), and Mitchell Myers (Cowardly Lion). Photo by Jo McCary.

The Munchkins were simply adorable in this performance, but they were much more than cute. They sang, danced, and acted like pros. Frankly, it is not easy for a director working on a high school production to include young kids. The logistics and supervision alone offer huge challenges, not to mention directorial considerations that come into play when working with a cast of such varied age and experience. This said, I love to see kids being introduced to and getting involved in the performing arts at young ages. Research shows that they will be more successful in school and more successful in life as a result. Congratulations to Jessica Speck and her directors for their ongoing support of young children and for getting them hooked on the arts at an early age.

The cast in this production was very large, with many kids performing multiple roles. While they could make stronger entrances and cleaner cut-offs when singing, they were vocally strong, fun to watch, and full of energy. The Wootton orchestra, under the direction of Carolyn Herman did a fine job with a challenging musical score and they are to be congratulated for their fine performance.  I also enjoyed the choreography, which was simple, fitting, and well-executed.

In a show that can only be described in terms of one favorite moment after the next, my very favorite had to be Scarecrow singing “If I Only Had a Brain.” I loved Scarecrow, and the Scarecrow “Pips” were a highlight of the show.

Though there were some minor tech issues in Sunday’s performance, there was much to praise. For starters, nobody would expect to see characters flying across the stage in a high school production, but to the delight of all they did. Artistically, the costuming in this production was consistently superior in its creative design, and the colors could not have been better. The murals were wonderful, and I loved the field of cornstalks.

I really enjoyed and highly recommend this performance, and I would go back to see a second performance if I could. Three more performances remain. I encourage you to gather friends and family members of all ages and treat yourselves to the timeless treasure that is The Wizard of Oz. You’ll be glad you did.

Cast Leads

Kayli Modell (Dorothy), Adam Uslan (Scarecrow), Landon Fleishman (Tin Man), Mitchell Myers (Lion), Corrieanne Stein (Glinda), Christopher Walkup (Professor/Wizard of Oz), Elgin Martin (Guard), Julia Wainger (Wicked Witch of the West), Danielle Linowes (Auntie Em), Bryan Fitzpatrick (Uncle Henry), Kevin Goldberg (Hunk), Evan Rindler (Hickory), Joshua Yu (Zeke), and Lauren Goldberger (Miss Gultch).

Ensemble

Sarah Kinney, Mara Pugh, Brooke Merchant, Wyatt Oring, Burak Demir, Michael Neild, Daniel Hamburg, Zoe Braunstein, Stelli Li, Vani Ravichandran, Max Fowler (Nikko),  Josh Gritz, Wesley Kramar, Evan Rindler, Dania Assas, Anna Bartels-Newton, Sasha Bartol, Julia Berrebi, Julia Butler, Melissa Heller, Sarah Kinney, Alexis Lahr,  Janet Lewandowski, Pilar McCarthy, Brooke Merchant, Amanda Morales, Julie Nicholas, Mara Pugh, Abby Wei, Daquain Buggs, Ben Cashman, Daniel Hamburg, Jacob Nelson, Jeffrey Morse, Alex Millstone, Sasha Bartol, Zoe Braunstein, Graysen Bright, Kara Crowder, Lindsay Gong, Danielle Margolis, Marah Marshall, Hannah Mitchell, Anna Pohryles, Allison Reed, Stephanie Rothermel, Saira Umar, Dayna Wallace, and Emily Xia.

Week One Munchkins

Jaxon Gatons, Julia Bogart, Natalie Eisen, Uriel Zeitz, Jennifer Weiss, Nikki Tober, Ella McGrath, Samantha Topf, Natalie Min, Lily King, Olivia Speck, Ryan Weitz, Alyssa Herman, Macy Fewell, Zara Denison, Alexander Ochman, Jacob Kaplan-Davis, Patton Harbourt, and Hanna Stearman, Ingrid Altamirano, Victoria Chai, Anais Chubukian, Ava Ehrlich, Allison Gritz, Lara Hamm, Olivia Kerben, Aviva Kram, Julia Mendelson, Jillian Pohoryles, Jenna Robinson, Jordan Rosenzweig, and Larissa Tsai.

Week Two Munchkins

Gareth Bennett. Maddie Etman, Darcey Touchette, Max Wool, Lily Foster, Emma Claire Heh, Rebecca Katz, Jessica Fu, Ava Turley, Madison Kenealey, Aishlinn Kivlighn, Maya Hope Saidel, Katharine Fu, Alexa Folk, Lauren Povich, Mikayla Reich, Jamie Stern, Ellie Metz, Rose Adkins, Guadalupe Balangero, Erin Chang, Logan Dross, Amalie Eig-Tassiello, Cheryl Goodman, Sasha Hanson, Dylan Horkan, Jenna Lind, James Mina, Stephanie Povich, Morgan Tinsley, Brooke Touchette, Morgan Touchette, and Meena Zoks.

 Orchestra

Ariana Yeatts-Lonske (Student Conductor), Rachel Mural, Rachel Green, Shalini Vadalia, CJ Vaughn, Niranjan Ravi, Joanna Martys, Selin Demir, Yasmine Hentati, Jon Lawson, Caroline Larkin, Olivia Anderson, Matt Rosenfeld, Zoe Junghans, Rania Hentati, Anahita Verahami, Ilana Green, John Lee, Barnabas Lee, Carolina Rabinowicz, David Nebb, Will Lusk, Katie Bolek, Nick Wilkie, Susheel Krishnamurthy, Charlotte Racioppo, Amy Jung, Heather Liu, Tara Ramachandran,  Jasmine Wung, Roopa Mulpuri, Heather Chen, Roshni Iyer, David Malamud, Tyler Johnson, Sam Cheng, Katherine Kim, Ellil Krishnaraju, Suveer Krishnamurthy, Judy Wang, Rebecca Xi, Amy Hao, Jean-Philippe SanGiovanni, Takayuki Wakabayashi,  Ryan Liu, Paul Neves, Tiffany Hu, Kathleen Lu, and Jonathan Kagan.

Tech, Sets, Crew

Adi Fine, AJ Roshfeld, Alex Korolkoff,  Alexa Maines,  Alyssa Lyon,  Annaka Stables,  Anna Magiafas, Avan Antia,  Ben Kernes, Ben Ray,  Brandon Joyce, Cody O’Donnell, Daniel Stopher Deanna Saah, Elise Tonelson ,Emily Pfeifer, Eric Eaton, Erica Baum, Frances Lasday, Hanna Greenblott , Jake Lazovick, JoAnna Mak, John Minderman, Katharine Kong, Katie Miller, Kayla Goodman, Leigh Alkis, Leo Meister, Lesley Calderon, MacKenzie Tilley, Matt Garmer, Mimi Davis, Nick Hatcher, Noah Rathburn, Pat Grant, Rachel Goldberger, Rachel Margolis, Robbie Adkins, Rosibel Saballos, Tara Allentuck, Victoria Pierce, Disha Shetty, Annie Ma, Chris Wu, Cynthia Wang, and Kiran Gund.

Featured Picture: Corrieanne Stein (Glinda), Kayli Modell (Dorothy), and The Munckins. Photo by Joe McCary.

The Wizard of Oz  has three remaining performances: March 23 and Saturday, March 24 at 7:30 pm; and Sunday, March 25 at 2pm at Thomas S. Wootton High School in the Wootton Center for the Arts – 2100 Wootton Parkway, in Rockville, MD. Reserved Seats are $15 and General Admission is $10. Order you tickets online.

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Watch a preview video of The Wizard of Oz.

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Jane Coyne
Jane Coyne has been involved in the arts for all of her life. As a singer, she has toured the country as a soloist, appearing at major venues throughout the United States, performing with musicians including Duke Ellington, Johnny Coles, Paul Gonzalves, and Tyree Glenn, and she has appeared in many musical theatre productions. She has managed the careers of a number of a number of international conductors and composers and previously served as the vice president of the National Philharmonic at Strathmore, executive director of the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras, and associate director of Washington’s Theatre Lab School of the Dramatic Arts. Jane directs the National PTA Reflections Program (one of the largest arts education programs in the country). She is also one of the founding directors of Young Artists of America, and manages the career of her son, composer and violinist Joshua Coyne.