Sunday, August 5, 2012

"The Wizard Of Oz" Takes Summerville By Storm-A Must See For The Whole Family

Kansa scene from "The Wizard of Oz"
The timeless 1935 American musical "The Wizard of Oz" opened at the James F. Dean Theatre in Summerville Thursday, August 2nd. The 1900 children's novel that became "The Wizard of Oz" film is one of the most celebrated movies ever made and named the most watched motion picture in history by the Library of Congress. It has carried countless numbers of both young and old "Over the Rainbow" to the colorful land of Oz where you are first greeted by the timid, strange talking Munchkins and the place Dorothy begins her journey down the memorable yellow brick road to the Emerald City, a journey that ends with a defining moment and a life lesson learned-"There is no place like home."

How many of us adults at one point or another in our childhood had thought about running away from home over something we were unhappy over? Especially, if our beloved dog was taken away from us by a cold, heartless matron dressed in black by the name of Almira Gulch. The traumatic event would be enough to send anyone traveling down the yellow brick road in search of someone with the power and authority to rescue you and "your mangy little dog, too." Personally, I can relate. I once had a neighbor report my dog to the Dog Warden for barking and like Dorothy, I fantasized the thought of throwing a bucket of water on the witchy neighbor.
Some of the backstage crew

The movie was famous for incorporating masterful special effects and unusual characters. The most noteworthy of its ideas was to present Dorothy's real life in sepia-tinted black-and-white and her entrance into the dream world of Oz in full technicolor, thus accentuating the beauty and wonder of her mystical journey through multiple, changing scenes, which for a stage adaptation would present a real challenge. A challenge the Flowertown Players production team dramatically executed considering the limited space and budget they had to work with. The stage crew navigated almost crunch-free through the eleven different scene changes and prop adjustments. The most difficult task performed by the crew was the rotation of the circular stage the Flowertown Players added for a previous play. I had never seen c-claps used that way before-quite adaptive.

The list of names involved in the plays successful debut is long. There were many imaginative minds and skillful hands used. So, hats off to producer David Hatch, stage manager Claire Parascandolo, and production manager Sarah Smith, and a salute to all the volunteers involved including the staging of the choreography, costume design, sound design and video production, especially to Ivan Parascandalo for the Muppet Wizard. The supporting cast, many of whom played multiple roles, assisted with the various scene changes. The scene that stood out for me was Scene Four of Act 1, when Dorothy first entered Oz and met Glinda and the Munchkins. The whole Munchkinland segment was executed near perfectly by all the young, enthusiastic performers. However, there was a certain little Munchkin Mayor who lost a mustache just before sending Dorothy down the yellow brick road.
All the Munchkins
I followed this acting group from auditions to opening night. The main cast was perfectly matched to the characters they portrayed, the very same ones who sang and danced their way into our collective psyches. I was more than super-pleased with the performance of Hanna Hiel, a senior from Pinewood  Prepatory, as Dorothy Gale. Over the many weeks of hard work, she came to know her character very intimately and successfully projected the perfect Dorothy from beginning to end. I enjoyed her singing of the award-winning song "Over the Rainbow". She also handled Lacy Gregowicz(Toto) quite well and I must insert at this point, the use of a real dog added a touch of realism and believability. It was amusing to watch the dogs reaction to everything. Lacy was interestingly cooperative about being stuffed into a basket and disappointingly denied a tempting bite of Professor Marvel's(Gary Ludlam) hot dog.
Hanna Hiel(Dorothy) and the cast warming up before show
Robert Culbreth Jr(Hunk/The Scarecrow), Ryan Ball(Hickory/The Tinman), and David Hatch(Zeke/The Cowardly Lion) perspired their way through equally excellent performances. The costumes for all three characters were designed well, and under the bright lights in the heat of performance, they had to be hot. I overheard David remark after the performance, "I lost ten pounds tonight." Deborah Culbreth played the mean hag Almira Gulch and the green-faced Wicked Witch of the West. Her sinister laugh still echoes in my ears with the words, "I'll get you, my pretty...and your little dog, too." Definitely not someone you would want to meet in a dark forest.
Wicked Witch of the West
If you were to close your eyes(this is not the part where you tap your heals and say, "There's no place like home," three times) and listen to Sara Armistead's voice portrayal of Glinda, you would think you were listening to the original actress, Billie Burke. Sara looked the part and sounded the part. She also played Aunt Em. Last-but-not-least, Henry Gale/Emerald City Guard was played by Lynn Latham. If Lynn looks more like a high school football referee than a farmer, it's because he is.
This is a must-see play. You will be pleasantly entertained. It is well worth an afternoon or an evening out. So, I encourage you without delay to purchase a ticket to "The Wizard of Oz" now. Show dates are August 2, 3 and 4, 9, 10, 11 and 17 with 2pm shows 4, 5, 11 and 12.
A special thanks goes to the Flowertown Players for enriching the community of Summerville with their talent and love for the performing arts. The sacrifice of time made by all the cast members and especially the younger ones involved in this production, putting other interests on hold for a few months, is greatly appreciated by the residents of Summerville and surrounding communities. A special thanks goes to Claire Parascandolo from myself for allowing me the opportunity to mingle backstage with the cast and crew to take pictures.
After party with David Hatch, Sara Armistead, Hanna Hiel, and Ryan Ball

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