Last night I was priviledged to see the Connellsville Area High School's production of The Wizard of Oz. Wow! I was really, really impressed! The singing and acting were all above what I consider average high school caliber. I was also very impressed with the sets and the tremendous amount of work the stage crew undertook. There were a gazillion scene changes, strobe lights, pyrotechnics, creative lighting (like a yellow-brick patterned spot light that Dorothy followed up the auditorium aisle), and flying witches and monkeys. Perhaps the biggest scene-stealer was the tornado! It was awesome. It was a circular black and grey cone constructed of tatterred, flowing fabric that rotated and made a complete sweep of the stage. Very nice for a live show! The Kansas scenery was entirely black and white with very stark lighting and even Dorothy's gingham dress was black and white, not blue and white, in the beginning. The actors used the whole auditorium, often coming up the aisles or peeking in from access panels above the main stage. Miss Gulch rode her wicked bike right down the aisle and up on the stage...it was also made to fly during the twister sene. By contrast, Oz was very colorful and fanciful. There was initially a bit of trouble with Glinda's "bubble" entrance, but it all worked out. The Witch appeared and disappeared in a puff of smoke, the Tin Man also puffed smoke from his funnel hat during his dance scene. There were dancing Poppies and then Snowflakes outside Emerald City. There was an additional scene that I'm not familiar with in which the Witch sends The Jitter Bug to wear out Dorothy and her friends in the wicked forest. The entire cast was part of this scene either dancing or singing on the stage and throughout the auditorium. It was swinging! There was even a real Toto that barked on cue and revealed "that man behind the curtain". I am a very "visual" person, so I am emphasizing the aesthetic, but the acting and singing really held up. It wasn't just flash and tricks. Most of the singing was better than a lot of the American Idol contestants...very consistent, strong and natural...not a lot of showboating or singing like a pop star (which I hate). Bravo! I took all four kids and my mom to see the show (poor hubby had another engagement) and each one loved it, from 15 years old to 4. I didn't expect to be so enchanted. I have pretty high standards. I was in three high school musicals as a kid in a school district that put a lot of time and money into it's productions. I was in the first graduating class from Woodland Hills High School which had merged three high schools into one. Woodland Hills is a consistent contender for the Gene Kelley Awards in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Incidentally, that's "NFL High" for any of you who follow High School football. Woodland Hills has a powerhouse football team which has launched several players into successful college ball careers and some into the NFL, like the Miami Dolphins' Jason Taylor.
Anyhow...thank you Connellsville High School for a truly magical evening and for reminding me how much fun I had in high school. I have been truly blessed to enjoy the performing arts in such a personal way! These kids are everything that's right about public school, small towns and America itself (cue Patriotic music here).