Bringing Down The House

Bringing Down The House

Ryan Smith and Erin McCarthy

If anyone saw the Wonderful Wizard of East, they may have noticed this year’s new twist. Re-writes took the audience through the eerie Land of Oz, where knowledge of the classic film was thrown into question. Hip-hop numbers took over the once-sweet songs performed by actors wearing hand-made steampunk outfits. Deep below the stage awaited veteran and new pit orchestra members with a priority to play. In addition, across the set ran a real Toto.

Junior Reyna Mallory, a pit veteran on trumpet, entered the first rehearsal with an expectation to stop and start pieces of music during several attempts to run through the score. For each show, no pit member truly knows what their part might be.

“It’s kind of a fun surprise in the beginning,” Mallory said.

Sight-reading took up their time until the band and orchestra could play the show in harmony. With few rewrites and cut songs, the members remained unaffected by the changes from the original music.

The new members, however, found the fresh experience challenging. Senior Maddie Spear brought her violin to the pit for the first time this year and realized the drastic difference between theatre and orchestra, especially with three different conductors to follow.

“It’s a lot more difficult music than we play in class…And when actors have vocal lines at the same time as our music, we have to change the cut off,” Spear said.

Junior Drew Malmgren stepped up to the pit when no other drummer would. He also was unaware of what he signed himself up for as he has never done pit for a show.

“This music hasn’t changed; the only music that has changed is the hip-hop stuff, and that’s electronically made so we’re not playing that,” he said.

The Theatre Department’s tenacious and ambitious stage managers, with jobs ranging from the creation of the set to making the show run smoothly. Junior Amy Schrader, The Wizard of Oz’s head stage manager biggest concern was putting all the pieces together when running the show.

“The most technically challenging thing about this show is making the two witches disappear and re-appear.,” Schrader said.

The time and effort going into making the set and creating the costumes seems to go over most heads. The tech crew helped make the whole production come to life. Although the audience may not see them, the tech crew played a very important role in the over-all performance of the show, especially with a production as classic and fast-paced as The Wizard of Oz. Because the Olathe East Theatre Department “ups its game” every year, the question stands: How could Oz top last year’s show?

“The production value is through the roof! There’s so much more moving parts and there’s so many special effects and things to make because there is a lot of magic in the show. There’s a lot of things we had to add to make it super,” Schrader said.

An important part of the show was the costume crew. This volunteer team worked very closely with costume head Mrs. Libby Bradley, also known as Mama B, to help create the costumes for every person in the show. Costuming proved more difficult without the option of purchasing the outfits. A variety of pieces went into the elaborate work made from hand.

Sophomore Izzie Peterson is one of the girls on the costume crew.

“The Jitterbugs and the Lion are some of the toughest to costume because a lot of different parts go into those costumes,” Peterson said.

Peterson’s job extended to Toto’s acting. Her nine-year-old shih-tzu-terrier-mix Opie luckily landed the role of Toto. Opie walked on stage and be was held by cast members while they are dancing.

Peterson said “He is super chill, but if he’s hungry he gets a bit impatient.”

Lindsey Hart, the actress who played Dorothy, rehearsed with the little dog regularly. When on break Opie enjoyed wandering around the auditorium and bringing smiles to all those involved.

During rehearsal, Hart avoided dancing in the one-of-a kind ruby slippers in fear of dirtying the theatre department’s only pair, but dancing in heels should not become a problem.

“With most shows we wear character shoes, which are between like two and three inches, so we’re all really used to it,” Hart said.

Other than the slippers, Hart had no idea what steampunk outfit she would wear. As for the story changes, Kansas holds up to the movie’s stereotype.

“It starts out with the whole cheaply tones, brown and white, very Judy Garland, over the rainbow. Normal. And then once the tornado hits, and we go into Munchkin land; that’s when the music changes,” she said.

Hip-hop and munchkin rappers cowered in fear of the wicked witch and the electric guitar following her into scenes. Previous numbers later competed for the audience’s attention when the Tin Man, Junior Jacob Thomas, sang his lack of heart out on an acoustic guitar.

“It will be in a minor key to make it sadder, and I rewrote the music for the song,” Thomas said.

Thomas enjoyed the different tones of this darker version of Oz as well as the variations of musical edits, one of which was his favorite number to dance in: Jitterbug. The entire experiment of the play deviated from anything East has produced. Classic over comedy, new spins over original, even the Wizard of Oz didn’t see what was coming.

Junior Mia Valentine took a lead for the first time in an Olathe East musical. Valentine’s natural singing talents and hard work landed her the role of Glenda the Good Witch of the North. Glenda first appears during the Munchkinland scene, one of the biggest twists in the show.

“Instead of the very jolly munchkins, they are going to be steam punk and kind of repressed, and it’s going to be a hip-hop Sequence,” she said.

This number required almost the entire cast, straying away from the typical musical style. Valentine also performed in “Poppies,” a big song for Glenda taking place while she tried to save the four main characters from the evil queen’s poppies spell.

“I was really excited for “Poppies” because of my big white dress.” Valentine said.

Glenda wore some of the most complex outfits in the show, justifying her fascination. Luckily, the portrayal of Glenda in this show remained fairly true to the original excluding a few interesting costumes. Valentine is sure to bring a lot of extra magic into the show with her elegant performance.

The Wizard of Oz opened at the beginning of February and went through the fourth. The show featured a cast of over 50 people, and a live dog. Re-imagined music ranged from acoustic to electronic, performed by the energetic ensemble to help get Dorothy back to Kansas. The Theater department kept up with their good reputation and performed a truly magical show.


Ryan Smith // Online Editor

Erin McCarthy // Staff Writer