A foot of snow in October?
“Unusual weather we’re having, ain’t it?”
So uttered the Cowardly Lion in 1939. Nearly 75 years later, his words ring true. Last week many Mainers knew exactly what this phrase meant.
Near and dear to all ages, “The Wizard of Oz” is a timeless tale of good versus evil; of desperately seeking what you desire only to realize you possessed it all.
“The Wizard of Oz” is Windham High School’s fall musical this year and will be performed six days this month. A cast of 50 Windham and Raymond students have been recruited, including a dozen fourth- and fifth-graders for the all-important Munchkins.
Even Toto made the cut; a real dog will grace the stage with the cast.
This year marks the fourth season for director Rob Juergens, who says he’s never worked with a live animal in a production.
“We’ve had the dog in for rehearsal a couple of times,” he said. “Right now the dog is very interested in roaming around and meeting everybody in the cast. It’s going to be interesting.”
Anyone who’s seen “The Wizard of Oz” knows its cinematography was way ahead of its time. To stage it, Juergens has had to procure many props and hone the musical’s special effects.
“It’s been quite a challenge for our technical department,” he said. “We have a balloon which will actually fly off stage. Getting the appearances and disappearances of the Witch is a challenge, too.”
The students have been polishing their material into a well-oiled machine almost since the school year began. It’s an annual part of things at the high school and helps forge a strong sense of community. Parents bring in home-cooked food for the cast to enjoy after rehearsals on the final week, and many parents have donated time and materials to craft the props that are required.
“It’s a team-building exercise,” Juergens says. “Some of these kids have been in local theater since they were 5 and 6 years old.”
Dorothy is played by Georgia Noonan, a senior from Raymond who was also in last year’s musical, “Bye-Bye Birdie.”
“I’ve been watching ‘The Wizard of Oz’ since I was born,” Noonan said. “I love Judy Garland; I’ve studied her moves and her actions. When I heard the theater was doing ‘The Wizard of Oz’ this year I was very excited. Dorothy is like a dream role. This is the first lead role I’ve ever had.”
Noonan has to sing many lines, a task she performs with grace. Her voice is really quite beautiful.
The Cowardly Lion is played by Whitney Bolduc, a junior from Windham. The other lead characters said she got the part because her “lion accent” is spot-on.
“I was in ‘Bye-Bye Birdie’ last year,” she says. “This year it’s been a lot different playing a main character. It’s been an amazing time.”
The Tin Man is none other than Jamie McBride, a junior from Windham. McBride got the chance to play the Tin Man before, back when he was younger, at Windham Community Theater.
“I came in with a basic understanding of the role,” he said. McBride likes working with the director, whom everyone informally calls “Rob.”
“He knows when to work and when to joke,” McBride said.
And who could forget the Scarecrow, frolicked by Brad Meader, a sophomore from Raymond.
“I think I got the part because I was the only one willing to fall over on the chorus room floor during auditions,” Meader said. “It’s a very forgiving role; if I forget a dance step I can just fall on the ground and people will think it’s normal.”
“The Wizard of Oz” will run on Nov. 11, 12, 18 and 19 at 7 p.m. Sunday matinees will run on Nov. 13 and 20 at 4 p.m. Tickets are $11 for adults, $7 for children and seniors.
For reservations or information call 893-1742 or email [email protected] The box office will open 45 minutes before curtain. All performances are at Windham Performing Arts Center at Windham High School.
Don Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Raymond. He can be reached at: