‘Wizard of Oz’ visits Parkrose High

Discover why this – their most ambitious theatrical production ever – looks to be outstanding family entertainment. This live production, based on the famous movie, starts in the second week of May …

After arriving in a strange new land, Jessica Davison (Dorothy) holds the hand of Laura Kate Denning (Glenda the Good Witch), as “Munchkin” children from Parkrose elementary and middle schools greet her – in a rehearsal for the upcoming production of The Wizard of Oz.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
If you see a yellow brick road winding its way through the Parkrose area, it could be because a colossal production of The Wizard of Oz is coming to the stage of the Parkrose High School Theatre in May.

“We’ve wanted to do a show like this in the whole six years that I’ve been here,” said the show’s director – and Parkrose High Theater Arts Instructor – Ms. Zena. “This production has a cast of 100, features our high school actors, and is supported by students from all four of our elementary schools and middle school – as well as professionals from the community.”

The show’s makeup crew chief, Yian Saecho, gets ideas from the director, Ms. Zena.

Students have been rehearsing all month, Zena said. “We have top Portland-area choreographers, pianists, and coaches working with our cast,” Zena said. “Mike Tolan is our musical conductor; and Mark Steering, our vocal director, has been very active in other schools in the community.”

Unlike some versions of the musical, Zena said, this version – made for the Royal Shakespeare Company, and licensed by Tams-Witmark – closely resembles the original motion picture, including the musical score. The new orchestration closely approximates the sound of the film’s orchestra on the soundtrack; the original film orchestrations had been destroyed.

“If you liked the movie, you’ll love this show,” Zena remarked.

Professional stage musical coach, Mark Steering, vocal director for Parkrose High’s The Wizard of Oz, leads students as they rehearse a number.

About the story
The 1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer musical fantasy film was based on the 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. The movie featured a very young actress and singer, Judy Garland. Although it originally was a box-office flop, telecasts of The Wizard of Oz, starting 1956, re-introduced the film and created millions of fans; the Library of Congress has since named it “the most-watched motion picture” in history.

“You’ll join Dorothy and her dog Toto on their adventure in Oz; meet her new friends, the Tin Man, Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion, as they challenge the Wicked Witch of the West on their way to meet the mighty Wizard in Oz,” Zena reminded.

It includes the Academy-Award-winning song, “Over the Rainbow” and other musical favorites. And – thanks to younger Parkrose area students – they’ll not run short on Munchkins and other little people.

Glittery sets and special effects
The students of the school’s theater manager and set-building guru, Terry Franceschi, are busily building colorful sets.

“In this show, we have almost as many backstage crew positions as we have actors,” Zena noted. “In addition to lighting and sound crews, we have a team dedicated to special effects, make up, and costuming. And, with the help of professional riggers, some of our actors will fly about the stage.”

Working out their staging on the front porch of the Kansas house from which the adventure begins, Jessica Davison (Dorothy) is comforted by Amanda Coalwell (Antie Em).

Opens May 12
The Wizard of Oz visits Parkrose plays for two weekends in May. The curtain rises at 7:00 p.m. on May 12 and 13; and again on May 19 and 20.

  • And, there are two matinee shows: May 14 at 2:00 p.m. and May 21 at 4:00 p.m.
  • Tickets are $10 for general admission; $8 kids 12 and under.

Don’t miss out: Purchase tickets online at the secure website: CLICK HERE to open that page. All performances are at the Parkrose High School Theatre, 12003 NE Shaver Street, just west of NE 122nd Avenue.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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