Willard High School presents final show in the Performing Arts Center, "Wizard of Oz"


Photo by Richard Russell Photo by Richard Russell

In “The Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy didn’t know how great she had it at home until she was gone.

Willard High School theater director Cynthia Light, who will direct students in “The Wizard of Oz” in the final production held in the WHS performing arts center, may feel similar to Dorothy after this year.
“I don’t think we knew how lucky we (were)” to have the center, she said.
The new school building will be ready for classes next school year. Performances will take place in an “auditeria,” basically a combination of an auditorium and cafeteria, Willard City Schools Superintendent Jeff Ritz said.

Light said the auditeria won’t have as much storage space or a “green room,” one where actors usually gather before a show or during intermission.
The performing arts center is “wonderful” with ample space and a pit that drops, Light said. She has directed 40 shows in 20 years in the performing arts center, which has a capacity of 563.

The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, which largely is funding the new building, won’t pay for a separate performing arts center, said Mike Lillo, the district’s director of building and operations and transportation director. However, Lillo said the new building will “really benefit” the arts, with a state-of-the-art sound system, lighting and acoustics as well as individual lesson rooms.
Light said she wanted the last musical in the current performing arts center to be a “nice big show.” She wanted to put on a show that would involve as many people as possible and a familiar musical. “The Wizard of Oz” has become a familiar musical at WHS; the school has performed it twice and as Light said, it’s “something everyone knows.”
“It’s a big, family-fun show,” she said.

WHS will put on its third production of “The Wizard of Oz” at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The cast will comprise 38 student thespians, along with about a 10-member crew and 17-member student orchestra.

Light said the stage version students will perform mimics the movie for the most part. Unlike the film, the play includes the “Jitterbug” dance, a sequence which allows many students to participate, Light said

Costuming was one of Light’s biggest concerns. In the past, WHS has relied on Kuhn Costume Rental in Mansfield, but that went out of business in the fall.
“I was really nervous,” Light said. But she needn’t be; Shelby High School performed the musical during the fall and they had already gotten the costumes from Kuhn. Therefore, Willard was able to rent the costumes worn by the main characters from Shelby; The money for the rental costs will come out of the drama department fund. “It was a great relief,” Light said.

Light used show band and choir band costumes for the “Jitterbug” dance and her mother, Eileen Steinhilber, volunteered to make 24 poppies.
“I love her for it,” Light said. “She said ‘of course.’” Light said despite the four calamity days, during which cast members didn’t hold rehearsal, she’s confident students will put on a good show.

Cast members in leading roles include sophomore Lesly Camacho as Dorothy, junior Kenny Feagan as the Cowardly Lion, sophomore Danny Montgomery as the Scarecrow, senior Jordan Vanichek as the Tin Woodsman, senior Irene Caldwell as the Wicked Witch of the West/Miss Gulch, senior Emily Schwan as Glinda and senior Chris Collins as the Wizard. Special effects will make Dorothy’s house look like it’s flying in a twister.

Just as such a storm produces much rain in addition to heavy winds, Light said she’s anticipating many tears will spill at this, the last production in the Willard High School performing arts center.

Tickets are $6 for students and $8 for adults. Advanced tickets are available through the school at 419-935-0181. You can also buy tickets at the door.

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