Play is the first musical to involve almost the entire school, grades 1 to 12

Photo courtesy Oakwood School
Student actors perform as the main “Wizard of Oz” characters.

By Mikaela Minoza

Somewhere over the rainbow in the Oakwood Theatre, audiences witnessed how dreams really do come true in a student rendition of “The Wizard of Oz.”

This Morgan Hill school’s heartwarming production of the classic children’s story promised to make “troubles melt like lemon drops” as a girl from Kansas finds herself dropped by tornado into a strange land. “Dorothy” dons ruby slippers, follows the yellow brick road, and finds her way with her friends to discover the wonders of the Emerald City.

With four performances ending March 30, “Oz” was a milestone production for Oakwood School because it is the first musical play to involve almost the entire school, grades 1-12.

“The elementary school grades 1-5 all made poppies for our poppy field set, and grades 4-8 were invited to come participate as Munchkins and flying Munchkin roles if they would like to,” said show director Colleen Blanchard. “We took about 20 of them into our cast so that we could augment with different ages to create the different height levels for the characters.”

The Oakwood high school/middle school teacher was excited this is the first big show some of the younger students performed in. “They got to see how the high schoolers rehearse and how the show is put together at a different level,” she said.

Two actresses portrayed “Dorothy” and the “Wicked Witch of the West.”  Oakwood senior Cambria Pace split the starring role of Dorothy with fellow senior, Ruby Salvatti. They remarked how the involvement of students from ages 5-18 made this performance unique from past Oakwood shows as well as other high school renditions of “The Wizard of Oz.”

Photo courtesy Oakwood School

“It’s really an all hands on deck sort of project,” Pace said. “I think that’s really cool because it’s nothing that Oakwood has ever done before.”

With a cast of about 60 performers,  “Oz” held various aspects to make the show different from other versions most people have seen, she said.

“I think it’s different from other productions mainly because of Mrs. Blanchard,” Pace said. “All of the shows she puts on have touches of magic and it feels like Broadway Junior. They are always spectacular productions.”

Pace dug deep within “Dorothy’s” character to resonate with the psychological development she goes through. She pointed out how the Kansas set was filled with color when the heroine returns from her journey to the Emerald City. This symbolized her growth and illumination of finding out what home truly means to her. The pivotal change, symbolized through a shift in set pieces, highlights the importance of the set changes and all of the moving parts involved in the show.

Splitting the role of “Dorothy” with Pace, Salvatti devoted a considerable amount of time to “unpack” the character’s motivations.

“For Dorothy, I’ve had a bit of difficulty finding ways to really relate to her,” she said. “It’s helped me to think about what her weaknesses are, what her motivations are, who she relies on when she needs help, and what really drives her as a character.”

Photo courtesy Oakwood School

Not only did this production involve a variety of grades, it brought in the help of other school departments, Blanchard said. The art students spent free time designing and painting an enormous backdrop for the stage to capture the essence of the show.

Even a member of the Oakwood robotics team, Brendan Lyle, worked alongside students from the visual arts department. He constructed the iconic “Oz” head, which Dorothy and the Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion and Tin Man encounter when they first seek out the “Wizard.”

Many actors worked hard to put together a fantastic show. Among them, Melanie Chipman, a senior, portrayed the “Wicked Witch of the West.”

Chipman was thrilled to play the villainous character. Along with being part of the production, the role of the witch holds a cherished significance for her. Having witnessed family members and friends perform in previous iterations of the show, she found herself proud to follow in their footsteps and infuse the character with her own unique interpretation.

Mikaela Minoza is a senior at Oakwood High School. A member of the “Wizard of Oz” cast, she wrote this story for Morgan Hill Life.