Parkrose High’s ‘Wizard of Oz’ delights audiences

See how the performers in this lively, colorful family production, based on the famous movie, brings this tale to life – with song, dance, and amazing special effects. It’s now playing, this weekend and next …

Conductor Mike Tolon strikes up the live band, for the overture – at the Parkrose High School Theater production of The Wizard of Oz.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
In its grandest production to date, the Parkrose High School Theater thrilled audiences with the opening night performance of The Wizard of Oz on May 12. But, here’s the good news: The show continues this weekend and next. And they’re offering two matinee performances on Sunday afternoons, making this show accessible to families with kids of all ages.

The show closely resembles the 1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer musical fantasy film, The Wizard of Oz, based on L. Frank Baum’s children’s story, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Thanks to its being shown on television for decades, it’s been named “the most-watched motion picture in history” by the United States Library of Congress.

Wishing she were anywhere other than Kansas, Dorothy Gale (played by Jessica Davison*) sings that she’s sure to find joy “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”.

Professor Marvel (Jeffery Benson) has Dorothy gaze deeply into his crystal ball to help her see her future.

“A storm’s a comin’” say farm hands Hickory (Zeth Hillman-Johnson), Zulieka (Ivanna Tucker*), and Hawk (Taylor Grady*), as Uncle Henry (Ian Franceschi*) and Auntie Em (Amanda Coalwell*) get ready to duck into their storm cellar to escape a tornado.

After being picked up and carried through the air by the tornado, Dorothy lands in Munchkinville and seeks the advice of Good Witch Glinda (Laura Kate Denning), before meeting the Munchkin villagers (Parkrose area lower school students).

“You’ll join Dorothy and her dog Toto on their adventure in Oz; and you’ll 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,” promised the show’s director and Parkrose High’s theater instructor, Mz. Zena. “So, if you liked the movie, you’ll love this show.

“This production features a cast of 100, including high school actors. They’re supported by students from all four of our elementary schools and middle school – which means Munchkinville and Oz is populated lots of colorfully dressed, singing and dancing little people. Choreographers Elizabeth Brown, Kate Jahnson and Taylor Ballard have created stage-filling dance numbers.”

Setting out on the Yellow Brick Road, Dorothy meets up with Scarecrow (Taylor Grady*), who is taunted by crows as he sings “If I Only Had a Brain”.

After a couple squirts of oil, Dorothy delights as the Tin Man (Zeth Hillman-Johnson) comes to life and dances and sings, “If I Only Had a Heart”.

Tin Man, Scarecrow, and Dorothy find that the Cowardly Lion (Ivanna Tucker*) isn’t vicious after all, as he sings “If I Only Had the Nerve”.

Hoping the great Wizard will help them find a heart, brain, home, and courage, the foursome sets off for the Land of Oz.

Theatrical companies across the City have lent the production sets and scenery, arranged by set designer Derek Lane of Roosevelt High School’s theatre department. The staging is complimented by the additional sets and props built in-house by students of the school’s theater manager, Terry Franceshi, the show’s technical director.

“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 from ZFX Special Effects, you’ll see witches, evil monkeys – and you’ll even see Dorothy fly high over the stage.”

But, the Wicked Witch of the East (Felicia Seery*) has other plans, as she schemes to get the magical ruby slippers now worn by Dorothy.

After Poppies work their evil magic on the Cowardly Lion and Dorothy, Good Witch Glinda revives the quartet of travelers and gives them good advice.

This welcome to the Land of Oz lifts the spirits of the weary travelers.

But, the Wizard of Oz (Jeff Benson) sends the four seekers on an impossible mission before he’ll consider helping them get what they each desire.

Students have clocked countless after-school rehearsal hours for months, Zena said. “We have top Portland-area choreographers, pianists, and coaches working with our cast. Mike Tolan is our musical conductor; and Mark Steering, our vocal director, has been very active in other schools in the community.

“But, behind the lavish production is a heart-warming story for our times,” added Zena. “As you watch Dorothy search for the home where she belongs, hold tight to the people who help you to belong – those who create your home and your family. As you do, remember that, even in your darkest moments, those people are always there for you.”

Evil Flying Monkeys, the evil henchmen of the Wicked Witch of the East, snatch Dorothy and Toto.

Now that the Wicked Witch of the East has her claws on Toto (Sango Jeremiah), Dorothy believes all is lost!

Even though her three pals make their way into Wicked Witch of the East’s castle, did they arrive on time to save Dorothy? Will they be given what they most desire? Go see the show and discover how this all works out!

* = Inducted member of the International Thespian Society

Now playing through May 21
The Wizard of Oz visits Parkrose plays for two weekends in May. Opening night was May 12; and 7:00 p.m. evening performances continue on May 13; and also on May 19 and 20.

  • Making this show really family-friendly, they’ve also scheduled 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 for 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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