I popped into the rehearsal for the upcoming Saline Community Education’s Junior Theater production of The Marvelous Misadventures of the Munchkinland Mayor and experienced a fun twist on the Wizard of Oz written by Saline’s own Brian Cox. The show is directed by Rebecca Groeb-Driskill, with choreography by Kristen Hall, and music direction by Linda West Klepacyzk. Leo Babcock created the sets. The junior theater is comprised of kids from grades 1-8 and does one show per year, a winter musical. I’ve caught many of them and am always struck by the talent of the kids in this town. The show is March 23-25.
The rehearsal I saw was a “rough run” in which that they were going through some of the show in a short time, putting the pieces together, which is always a bit rugged since all the transitions haven’t yet been worked out. I saw a snapshot of what will be the full production.
Meredith Zehnder plays Dorothy. At one point, a new line was added for her character, which she said with such beautiful expression the first time that she is clearly a natural. I don’t want to give away one of the twists of the story, but suffice it to say that in this version “Hollywood got it wrong”. The Mayor of Oz, Jon-Michael Taylor, plays a prominent role in the show and he demonstrates ease on stage along with great diction and fine expression in his portrayal. The lion to be played by William Kiningham is appropriately cowardly and faints extremely well, and the Tinman, played by Gregory Pool, portrays his character with tenderness and some good scared shaking. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see the scarecrow who was sick that day, but I loved watching one of his stand-ins, Mackenzie Piche, who is normally cast as a guard and played her role with great enthusiasm & expression, tweaking her performance each time she was on stage.
The choreography is lively, with lots of fun steps, jumps, and creative hand movements. You could tell that all of the kids felt ownership with their parts and played them with gusto. The flying monkeys were some of my favorites that day. Even though some of them are smaller than the lion, tinman and scarecrow, they bounded on stage with their noisy, menacing, peskiness that all but made up for their size. The monkeys are being played by Jeff Blair, Drew Denlinger, Jimmy Lancaster, and Collin Wagner. Munchkin Edwina, played by Miranda Patterson, delivered her only line with so much energy and animation that she shone! I didn’t get to see the costumes except for a glimpse of a “tree,” but it was very creative and green!
During a certain part, the witch is scheming among the poppies, trying to figure out whether to squash Dorothy and her cohorts like bugs or perhaps to poison them. Elaina Veasey, who will play the Wicked Witch of the West, was crafting her witchy-ness during the rehearsal. To my delight, Rebecca asked me to come up and give them a demonstration of some witchy cackles and dialogue. I had the honor of playing the witch in 2006 under her direction when Saline Area Players produced it. I cannot tell a lie…there’s nothing like being put on the spot and, uh…well…loving it…. and the kids seemed to too. Who doesn’t like an appreciative audience? Interestingly, I talked to Sara Foley, who is playing a lovely and graceful version of the good witch Glinda in this production, who happened to be a munchkin in the 2006 production. She remembered me and said that I scared her back then. Ahhhh ha ha ha ha ha haaaaa!
In my short time at the rehearsal, I was struck by the huge amount of energy that the kids showed, their naturalness on stage, which is telling considering that for many this is a first experience, their willingness to try new things, and their devotion to the production and working hard in whatever part they played. The little moments were divine and will make the show. Also, the voices are beautiful and, I won’t give away the finale, but will tell you that I’ll be bringing my tissues to the show.
Performances are March 23 & 24 at 7:30 p.m. and March 25 at 2:00 p.m. at Liberty School Auditorium. Tickets are $5 and are available at the door.