St. Mary production of The Wizard of Oz hits stage next week

Matt Gardner
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St. Mary High School students rehearse the 'If I Only Had A Heart' sequence from The Wizard of Oz on Monday. Grade 12 student Daniel LeBlanc (tilting on one foot at centre) portrays the Tin Man while Grade 10 student Jordan Feher (front right) plays Dorothy. Performances will take place at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre from May 7-10 at 7:30 p.m. with an additional matinee on Saturday at 1 p.m.

Prince Albert audiences will be off to see the wizard very soon.

St. Mary High School students are in final rehearsals for their upcoming production of The Wizard of Oz, which is scheduled to hit the stage at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre on May 7-10.

For the first time ever, St. Mary Upstage Productions will include a Saturday matinee performance among their scheduled shows.

“It’s got lots of familiarity for children, it’s a family-oriented show and we've been asked numerous years now whether we would ever do a matinee on a Saturday,” drama teacher and play director Jason Van Otterloo said. “So we’re going to try it this year -- we’ll see how it goes.”

Evening performances on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday start at 7:30 p.m., while the Saturday matinee begins at 1 p.m.

The choice of the play, which is based on the novel by L. Frank Baum, arose in part from the fact that this year marks the 75th anniversary of the beloved 1939 film version of The Wizard of Oz starring Judy Garland.

“There’s a lot of … historical reasons … and our casting sort of fit,” Van Otterloo said.

“The script requires three really strong guys to be our Tin Man, Scarecrow and Lion and we have an excess of talent when it comes to that, so we were able to fill those roles … and there’s something about doing a nice classic musical that everybody knows, can sort of hum along to (and) knows what the show’s all about.”

The St. Mary production will feature all the classic songs associated with the film, including We’re Off To See The Wizard, If I Only Had A Brain and Over The Rainbow.

Rehearsals began in early February. While the cast and musicians practised their parts, student crews were hard at work building and painting the sets for the play.

Given its status as an extracurricular activity, the play was open to all St. Mary students to participate in. But the final cast includes many veterans of previous shows.

Playing the lead role of Dorothy is Grade 10 student Jordan Feher, who decided to take part in her second musical following her positive experience in last year’s production of Footloose.

“It was so much fun,” she recalled. “This year it’s a little bit different because having a bigger role, you get to know more of the cast and you get more friendly with everybody … I just loved it last year and I really wanted to go back in.”

For her portrayal of Dorothy, Feher drew in part upon her own childhood memories.

There’s something about doing a nice classic musical that everybody knows, can sort of hum along to (and) knows what the show’s all about. Jason Van Otterloo

“What I’ve heard is she is portrayed as a 12-year-old girl, and so to me that’s innocence,” the actor said. “I always grew up sort of very naïve to the whole world around me, and so I’m kind of trying to put that into where she doesn’t really understand a lot of what’s going on.

“She’s scared a lot and she is also very emotional … I’m sure that with elementary schools, there’ll be some girls out there that can relate to her.”

Grade 12 student Daniel LeBlanc portrays the Tin Man, one of Dorothy’s companions on her trip down the yellow brick road.

A prolific veteran of the stage, LeBlanc’s upcoming performance will mark his seventh show in four years. He described his Tin Man as a highly emotional character.

“He’s lacking the heart, but for me, that means that rather than feeling it, he wears it on his shoulder,” LeBlanc said.

“So I portray the emotions, I cry for everything. For example when Dorothy leaves, I’m just in tears.”

Performing in her second musical, Grade 10 student Nathalie Parent plays the role of the main villain, the Wicked Witch of the West.

In a departure from the more straightforward portrayal of the character in the film, Parent offers a relatively nuanced interpretation of the witch.

“Unlike in the movie that more people are familiar with, I’m making the witch more bipolar almost,” she said. “Some moments are sweet and more innocent almost -- like I use nursery rhymes with kind of a sweet voice and picking petals off of flowers -- and then just kind of freaking out right after that and just shrieking and yelling.

“I guess I’m a character filled with absolute hatred for anything nice because I can’t be nice.”

Acknowledging the widespread popularity of The Wizard of Oz, Parent noted that the story works on multiple levels for different age groups.

“This show relates to everybody, whether they’re young or old or in-between, because there’s the fantastical stuff for all the little kids and the actual deep meaning for all the adults.”

Echoing her sentiments, LeBlanc noted, “It’s just one of the classics.”

Tickets for The Wizard of Oz are available at the Rawlinson Centre box office or online.

Organizations: Rawlinson Centre, Mary High School, Over The Rainbow

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