Northeast High thespians reunite for Wizard of Oz production

When Lillie Jewell and Zachary Demers take the stage as "Dorothy" and the "Tin Man" in Northeast High School's musical production of "The Wizard of Oz," it won't be the first time they have performed together.

The juniors became friends as fifth-graders at Sunset Elementary School. Lillie was Ariel and Zach was the prince, in the school's production of "The Little Mermaid."

Both students knew from a young age that they wanted to pursue acting. Lillie recalls watching a performance of "Cinderella" at Chesapeake High School at the age of four, instead of enjoying the show she remembers thinking "I want to be up there."

She began her acting career at 6-years-old when she appeared in a musical with Catonsville Theatre Company. She has been cast in about 25 plays.

Zachary began performing on stage in fourth grade. He's spent time working behind the scenes building sets and playing guitar in the pit during performances.

"When I was really young I took a liking to movies and stage productions, so I always wanted to try to be in one," he said.

Lillie and Zach reunited on stage last year to perform in Northeast's production of "Grease."

Seniors Bethany Wright and Andrew Solley will join Lillie and Zach on stage in "The Wizard of Oz" as "Scarecrow" and "Cowardly Lion."

During auditions, Bethany and Andrew tried out for director Sarah Delsignore.

Bethany says she thought about auditioning for "Dorothy," but decided the role of "Scarecrow" would be more fun. In sixth grade, she made her acting debut as an ensemble cast member in another “Wizard of Oz” performance.

"That (role) is what made me want to start doing musicals and theater," Bethany said.

She remembers being nervous for her middle school ensemble role, but admits she's "come a long way since then."

Andrew said he auditioned for the "Cowardly Lion" because he identifies with the character.

"I thought it was the perfect role for me because I get scared very easily, I'm a very goofy person and over-dramatic," he revealed.

Although Andrew has less acting experience than his counterparts, he was selected to perform a role in last year's production of "Grease.”

"Compared to "Grease," (this role) is leaps and bounds better," he said.

The quartet are members of Northeast's Vocal Ensemble and were featured last year in Northeast's production of "Grease." Although they performed in prominent singing roles, none had lead roles.

The actors agree it's easier to perform their roles in "The Wizard of Oz" because they already had camaraderie.

"I think chemistry is very important for the lead roles in this show," Bethany said.

To prepare for their performances, the group has been researching their respective characters by watching "The Wizard of Oz" movie.

"I see how that actor portrayed the lion, all of his movements and dialogue,” Andrew said.

Lillie and Bethany have also been preparing for their roles by taking vocal lessons. Lillie is looking forward to singing the iconic song, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

"I love to sing,” she said.

On opening night, Bethany hopes the crowd can "laugh and forget their reality for a little while and feel like they're somewhere over the rainbow."

"The Wizard of Oz" will feature 30 high school students and 20 elementary-aged children who have been cast as "Munchkins." The "Munchkins" are children of teachers, as well as siblings of the cast and crew.

"(The "Munchkin" scene) is really cute," Andrew said.

In addition, roughly 20 stage crew members have the tasks of making costumes, props, controlling lighting, and changing scenery during rehearsals and performances. Student stage manager Amber Coakley, a junior, is in charge of making sure everything runs smoothly.

Delsignore is utilizing a rented large movie screen erected in the background of the stage. The screen provides moving and still imagery throughout the performance.

"(The screen) adds a new element to everything," Bethany said.

Large props, like "Dorothy's" house, have been constructed especially for the play. The crew is also experimenting with special effects, including smoke, to create an other worldly atmosphere.

Northeast teacher Kevin Franc is the stage crew manager working behind the scenes to ensure the play goes off without a hitch. Helping to create costumes is teacher Lenore Martin.

Performances of "The Wizard of Oz" will be held at 7 p.m. Nov. 15, 16 and 17 in the school's auditorium. Tickets can be purchased for specific seats in the auditorium. Remaining tickets will be sold at the door.

On Nov. 3 and 10, tickets can be purchased 10:30-11:45 a.m.

To purchase tickets or for more information, contact Delsignore at sdelsignore@aacps.org.

Anniversary

Magothy Thrift Shop, 2501 Mountain Road, is holding a 40th anniversary celebration from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday. Everything is discounted 40 percent.

The shop provides funding for Magothy Health Center. Call the store at 410-255-1260 for more information.

Share your Pasadena news with Atalie Day Brown at adbrownmdgazette@gmail.com

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