Oakton High School
Witches and munchkins and poppies, oh my! The cast and crew of Connelly School of the Holy Child put on a truly wonderful show with their production of The Wizard of Oz.
A children’s novel published in 1900, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum inspired countless works in the entertainment industry, including perhaps one of the most iconic films in cinematic history. The motion picture starring Judy Garland was adapted into a stage version in 1987, presented by the Royal Shakespeare Company. The musical follows a young girl named Dorothy who dreams of adventures far from her humble dwelling in Kansas. After a tornado strikes, she gets much more than she bargained for, embarking on a thrilling adventure in the mystical land of Oz. Along the way, Dorothy meets a band of loyal friends and finds bravery in herself, but ultimately learns that there’s no place like home.
Grace Kavanagh delivered an enchanting performance as Dorothy, capturing the sweet and earnest disposition of the familiar character perfectly. As the story progressed, Kavanagh showed an extensive emotional range through every despairing twist and triumphant turn in Dorothy’s journey. Her wistful rendition of the classic song “Over the Rainbow” was particularly memorable and offered a rich homage to Garland’s original version.
Another actress who enthralled the audience with her voice was Justine Verheul, who displayed a professional level of versatility as she switched from Dorothy’s no-nonsense Aunt Em to the regal and benevolent Glinda. Verheul’s beautifully clear vocals resonated in musical numbers such as “Munchkinland Sequence” and “Poppies”.
Vowing to stand by Dorothy’s side through thick and thin, the Scarecrow, Tinman, and Cowardly Lion were played by Clare Bloss, Khoudia Diop, and Maeve McCaffrey respectively. Each of them brought a personal touch to their characters while echoing the performances of the 1939 film with unique mannerisms and thoughtful physical comedy. It was evident that careful consideration had been put into the characterization of each of Dorothy’s companions, and the effort paid off in lively and entertaining portrayals.
Perhaps one of the most energetic performances of the night was by Maggie Rudman, who played Professor Marvel and the Wizard of Oz himself. Rudman portrayed the Wizard and his Kansas counterpart with a humorous physicality and eccentric bravado that delighted the audience. Another standout, Sophia Seymour was chilling as the Wicked Witch of the West. Her every entrance and malevolent shriek stole the show, and her creative choice to shift some of her shrill lines into furious roars brought a fresh twist to the timeless character.
The technical elements of the show elevated the production with flawless execution. Though the musical was not performed in a traditional auditorium, microphones ensured that each line was heard loud and clear. Additionally, colorful lights on a plain backdrop were fully utilized to set the tone for each scene and were resourcefully manipulated to create the chaos of the twister that began it all. Working in aesthetic tandem with the innovative lighting, meticulously designed set pieces and costumes aided in transforming the stage into the land of Oz, from the flowers and lollipops of Munchkinland to the entrance to the Emerald City that doubled as the contraption that the Wizard of Oz cowered in.
Bringing the whimsical tale to life with an exemplary cast and resplendent visuals, Connelly School of the Holy Child’s production of The Wizard of Oz brought its audience along on a journey brimming with excitement and nostalgia with every step down the yellow brick road.
Woodrow Wilson High School
"The Wizard of Oz" is a classic American musical considered a staple of high school theatre. Protagonist Dorothy's journey from her dull Kansas home to the magical land of Oz, and her eventual realization that “there's no place like home” presents timeless themes of friendship, family and fantasy, while iconic numbers such as “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” continue to shine on the stages of many a school. Connelly School of the Holy Child became one such school Saturday night, as its energetic cast willingly took on the classic text, albeit infusing their own character into the words.
The infectious energy of Dorothy's companions, whom she discovered on her quest to meet the great wizard Oz and return to her family in Kansas, was endearing and entertaining. The Scarecrow (Clare Bloss), Tinman (Khoudia Diop), and Cowardly Lion (Maeve McCaffrey) were all convincing in their characterization of their roles and used amusing physicality. The three supported each other as a group onstage and had commendable chemistry, while adding unique qualities to their characters through their solos- “If I Only Had a Brain”, “If I Only Had a Heart”, and “If I Only Had the Nerve”, respectively. As Dorothy, Grace Kavanagh’s vocals were particularly showcased in “Jitterbug”, an upbeat number in the second act in which Dorothy and her companions are put under the spell of mischievous dancing bugs set upon them by the Wicked Witch of the West, played with excellent comedic timing and creative use of diction and vocal timbre by Sophia Seymour. The creative choice of casting the role of Toto with a human actor added interest and charm to the dynamic of the group and was used as a particularly enjoyable tool during the “Munchkinland Sequence”, where the Toto character joined in on the lively song and dance of the rest of the cast.
Proving herself a true triple threat, Justine Verheul shone as Auntie Em, Glinda, and the Jitterbug. While deftly navigating swift hairstyle and costume changes, the actress brought energy and creativity to each of her roles, making strong acting choices for each. As Auntie Em, Verheul showcased an impressive Southern accent, and brought maturity to the role not usually seen from a high school actor. As Glinda, she blew the audience away with her beautiful soprano vocals which matched the graceful physicality she brought to the character always, as well as her elegant and complex turns dancing in the “Munchkinland Sequence”. Finally, during her splendid turn as the Jitterbug in the aptly named “Jitterbug” number, Verheul was dynamic and animated while sharply executing the zestful choreography and adding a sense of impishness to the role.
Connolly’s medium sized stage was well utilized by the large cast, and repeated use of the aisles and stairways surrounding the stage kept scene transitions and the introduction of certain characters interesting and unexpected. Notably, The introduction of Miss Almira Gulch (Gabby Hanley), came by way of her biking up the aisles past the audience, immersing them into the scene. The creative set piece of a ramp as the yellow brick road added levels to the stage and gave the illusion of movement and transitions throughout the scenes.
The passionate cast of Connelly School of the Holy Child’s production of "The Wizard of Oz" were fully committed to their roles onstage, their vitality and engagement being apparent to the audience throughout the show. The enduring themes presented by the classic musical were successfully impressed upon the audience and left them thoroughly cheered and abundantly entertained.