Several Pioneer residents will be off to see The Wizard this weekend.
This time, the yellow brick road will lead patrons to the North Central High School Auditorium, which will be demolished this coming June as part of the plans for building a new high school facility. Erected in 1922, its stage will play host to one more show before its final curtain call.
And that show will be the seven Tony Award winning Broadway musical The Wiz.
The story will follow protagonist Dorothy as she attempts to find her way home after a tornado sweeps her away to the land of Oz. Those familiar with the film adaptation of this classic tale should have little trouble recognizing the plot, though this version will have a new element to it, according to director Deb Meyers.
“The characters and story line follow faithfully to the 1939 movie version of L. Frank Baum’s 1900 story,” Meyers began, “but the songs are new and upbeat.”
That would be due to the composer of the original 1975 play, one Charlie Smalls. His music and lyrics create a more modern tone to the story. To accomplish this, the score combines elements of rock, gospel, and soul. A pit band comprised of Sharon Deetz, who will lead the ensemble, as well as Paul and Joy Gruetter, and Joe House, will be charged with incorporating these musical themes into the performance.
At the story’s beginning, Dorothy, played by Reese Cogswell, is living on a declining Kansas farm, owned by her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, brought to life by Alyssa Swank and Jakub Grodi, respectively. After being ripped away from her home and transplanted in Oz, Dorothy is introduced to a wide array of interesting characters, including the good witch Addaperle, a role filled by Julia Rhinard, and the Munchkins, led by head Munchkin Kirby Miller.
Looking to find her way home, Dorothy sets off along the yellow brick road in an effort to arrive at Emerald City, where she hopes to meet with the Wiz, protrayed by Zac Turner. Along the way, she meets a few new friends, such as a quite hip Scarecrow, played by Rachel Oxender, an anxious Tin-Man, a role awarded to Zandra Vassar, and a Lion who no longer seeks psychiatric advise from an owl, brought to life through the acting talents of Macayla Wildrick.
Of course, no good story would be complete without a rich assortment of villains. Queen Kalidah, portrayed by Kaylie Brouse, is a frightening fiend who leads her troop in guarding the haunted forest. The iconic role of the Wicked Witch, or Evillene, for short, was earned by Heather McConnaughey. Wasting no time in displaying her cruelty, Evillene demands a final and absolute punishment for her frail messenger, played by Jenna Eidenier, early into her first appearance on stage. The witch has other henchmen to fulfill her orders, such as her Lord High Underling, a role tasked to Michael Pryslak.
With so many obstacles in her way, Dorothy will need a good bit of advice to defeat the odds and make it back to Kansas. Makayla Hayes, as the good witch Glinda, is happy to give it.
It’s not just the actors and music that make a play come to life, however. Serving as co-student directors, Brady Zuver and Dakota Wiseman have shown off their leadership skills throughout the musical’s production. A variety of other roles were also in need of filling if the play was to get off the ground, and they were filled by the likes of Jordan Bailey, Jordan Reeves, Josh Sawyer, Aleea Lonabarger, Brooke Bryan, Brock Zuver, Nathan Traxler, Allyson Hutchison, Jessica Chessbro, Erin Ryan, Emma Zenz, and Kirsten Helinski.
The production team, who put tireless hours of labor into making the musical a reality, consisted of Dustin Campbell, Marcia Geiser, Travis Creek, Linda and Randy Cochran, David Deetz, Julie Taylor, Tomi Zuver, Kendra Ely, Ashley Kimpel, and Jaymie Lashaway. Making up the rest of the crew are Jordan Bailey, Samantha Hughes-Vassar, Josh Sawyer, Jordan Reeves, Adam Knepper, Colton Pilmore, Sabrina Pickford, Rachel Shipman, Makayla Rizor, Megan Laney, Kaleb Faler, Dakota Pitts, Kaleb Geiser, Brock Zuver, Josh Roesener, and Josh Bailey.
There will be three showings of The Wiz over the weekend. On April 24 and 25, the show is set to kick off at 7:30 P.M., while an April 26 performance will take place at 2:30 P.M. Tickets are $8.00 for adults, and $4.00 for students, including alumni still enrolled in collegiate courses. A special price of $3.00 is being offered to anyone who has taken part in a North Central theatrical production in the illustrious ninety-three year history of the program.
“We want to honor all those who have contributed and helped build our North Central High School theatrical tradition.” Explained Meyers.
Those wishing to reserve seating should contact Meyers at 419-737-3403, or email her at DebMeyers@NorthCentralSchool.org.
T.J. Hug can be reached at
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