The sounds of happy children pervaded the jam packed auditorium of the Avon Grove High School as they presented "The Wizard of Oz" last weekend. There were 32 munchkins, nine poppies, seven trees and 17 flying monkeys, and these were just for what was known as the Gold Cast, as there was also a Maroon Cast. There was a lot of double casting as obviously everyone wanted to be in the show directed by Stephanie Judge, Patricia Egner and Ricky Rotandi.
One of the best and the worst roles to have to play is Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz," because everyone is going to compare you to the performance by Judy Garland. Charity Vickers as Dorothy did not look or sound like Judy, but it didn't matter. She was superb doing it her way. She has a strong, melodious voice, lots of self-confidence, and she was outstanding.
Another big favorite was Tyler Matheny as the loose-limbed Scarecrow, who was consistently amusing.
Josh Addison was a most dignified Tin Man, while Cowardly Lion Marco Diaz never came out of character with his timorous stance.
Little Sidney Brien was a marvelous dog in the part of Toto. It did not seem odd at all to have a little girl playing a dog. The Almighty Oz was well done by Andrew Doerfler, who interprets the part as a rather pleasant rather than a frightening Wizard.
One of the fun roles in the show is that of the Wicked Witch Belinda, done with tremendous verve and cackling glee by Laura Knickerbocker. Her meltdown into the floor was perfection. Linda McClellan as Glinda the Good Witch appears early and by the end of the show has taught Dorothy that you have to rely on yourself to reach your goals, as well as that home is where the heart is and there's no place like home. She is aided in her radiant goodness by Julianna Buck as the Good Witch Melinda who also plays the part well.
To fall under the spell of the Oz story, one has to care about the characters. Kate Wittman as the plain country woman Auntie Em and Daniel McNicholas as farmer Uncle Henry portrayed these simply loving people exactly right.
When Jed Pry Guarded the Wizard's gates, there was no question that he took the job seriously. The trios of officials concerned over the unexpected death of the Wicked Witch were properly concerned, as portrayed by Shannon Carroll as the Mayor of Munchkinland, Jake Aaron as the officious Coroner and Victoria Johnson as the dubious Barrister.
There were some small roles that were well done and added so much to the story. The slaves and the cats in the Wicked Witches' home, the aides to the Witches, the happy people in Kansas, are a few. These included Madison Beehler as Jade, Nick Brindle as Verdo, Emily Carman as Inky, Mel Hanson as Slinky, Jessica Rossi as Blinky and Jasmine Forde as Topaz. Also rounding out the cast were Leah Kohl as Amber, Nick Brendle as Winkle, Alex Brannan as Wonkle, Brittany Abeldt as Boq and Abby Conklin as Zoq. Other small but important roles were played by Hannah Lichfield as Ruby, Kathy Gerwig as Garnet, Caleb Fitzgerald and Chad Bechtold as two fathers.
The night I saw the show there were 66 elementary school children in the cast, all excited and having a fabulous time. The directors are to be praised for understanding what a thrill and a growth experience it is for a young child to be in a good theatre production in a real theatre. This is particularly true as new elementary schools are not longer being built with auditoriums where they can get this. School boards have apparently convinced the voters and themselves that cafeterias, or cafetoriums as they are called, with a small raised platform can suffice, even though the acoustics are horrible, the audience cannot see and sound equipment and lighting are minimal.
There were four main clusters of children with older young people shepherding them around. Some of these were Chad Bechtold as the head Flying Monkey, Meghan Edwards as the head Poppy, Morgan Munyan as the head of the Lollipop Guild, Lauren Finley as head of the Flower brigade. Erin Kantner was head of the Lullaby League and Laurel Squadron was head of the Enchanted Trees, while Marvi Salgado, Lyia Massey, Jeanne Felizardo and Faith McConnell were all part of the group of Enchanted Trees, Poppies and Muchkins. The trees, led by Evil Tree Jared Spaulding, were Henry Beattie Tyler Curtis, Reed Hadley, Steven Luke, Juliana C J Dixson and Brett Iannuci, who showed remarkable throwing skill as they hurled apples at the main characters. The Poppies were entrancing with enormous red head dresses and green outfits as they waved Dorothy and the Lion into sleepy time Land. The poppies were played by Gracen Deaven, Zoë Filbert, Kaylee Nolan, Kylte Norris, Ally Viering, Gbrielle Farina, Katherine Nardt, Ashton Norris and Myla Vetterlein.
The Flying Monkeys, dressed with wicked looking wings, energetically whipped down the aisles on roller skates and shoes that had heels with wheels while making monkey sounds. Those playing the part of flying monkeys were Alec Arhontakis, Heidi Bechtold, Jake Bosio, Allison Connely, Isaac Hughes, Madeline Mueller, Caydon Noris, Spencer Peret, Kyle Wiesenberg, Dino Arhontakis, Lacey Beitler, Charlotte Condliffe, Bella Currie, Drew Ianucci, Abby Osborne, Ben Peragine and Liam Sibbers. The colorful Munchkins who sang so well were Riley Boberick, Kendall Bosto, Kristin Choma, Allison Connelly, Alexa Costa, Jake Del Ferro, Charlotte Drop, Gwendolynne Eckert, Julia Engel, Jill Fabey, Larissa Glaeser, Gabrielle Gonnella, Connor Hessler Aliyah Martin, Eve Melhado Natalie Merger, Allyson Morris, Autumn Mueller, Hannah Munyan, Abby Osborne, Angelica Relaction, Emma Roberts, Rachel Saienni, Gina Salerni, Penelope Scheck, Ayden Sparks.