An eager audience filled auditorium Thursday night for a fresh take on the classic musical The Wizard of Oz.
While all the classic Oz set pieces and characters were present and accounted for, the all-student cast of went beyond the typical school play by incorporating student-penned additional scenes and even improvising lines.
After the show, drama director Janey Compton said she was ecstatic with the performance. “This group of kids is so exceptional," she said. "For middle school kids to be great actors is one thing, but these kids are great at improv too. They’re just amazing to work with."
Musical director April Tini said that she has been working with the cast and crew of Oz since January and that the three months of work is paying off after the premiere, with one more show scheduled for run Friday. “We had so much talent on stage tonight. It has been a joy and gift to work with these kids every day. They have so much heart. They want to be challenged," said Tini, now in her 10th year of teaching at OLMS.
The most unique and perhaps enjoyed aspect of the OLMS production Thursday night was the addition of a scene written by one of the cast members wherein the cast gathers, at an open-mic style club, to perform Oz-esque popular songs such as "Rainbow Connection" and "Witchcraft."
“I wrote the Sparkle Club scene just for the fun of it," said Max Vinogradov, 13. "I wrote the Munchkin Mayor’s song, too. This is the first time I’ve been able to put this much creativity into a school play."
Both directors were impressed by Max and the rest of the cast’s writing and improv performances. “There were lines tonight we’ve never even heard before,” said Compton.
“It throws me, but it never throws the other kids. They just go with it," Tini added.
After the cast of pit musicians played the cast off the stage, family members reunited and presented the actors with flowers and other gifts. Joann Martin of Pontiac, mother of Michael Martin, a seventh-grade performer, was seeing the show for the second time in one day. “I sat in on the dress rehearsal and I’ll be back again on Friday. They were awesome tonight. They should all be very proud.”
Fresh from the stage in bright makeup, seventh-graders Lauren Cole and Julia Cassel were proud of their peers. “It was so much fun. Everyone did a great job,” they agreed.
The Wizard of Oz runs through Friday at West Bloomfield High School, with the show beginning at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10.