Tunkhannock students will be ‘easing on down the road’ this weekend, as they perform ‘The Wiz,’ in the high school auditorium.
A musical adaptation of ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ ‘The Wiz’ tells the story of Dorothy Gale and how she is transported via a tornado to the magical land of Oz. The show contains many show stopping number including ‘Ease on down the road,’ and ‘No bad news,’ as Dorothy attempts to find a way home with the assistance of her friends the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Lion.
“What we’re doing is a lot closer to the original book as opposed to the MGM movie with Judy Garland,” explained Jennifer Geary, who is directing the production.
As an example, in the book, Dorothy’s shoes are made of silver - which is what Hannah Chesner will be wearing when she performs the role.
This is Geary’s fifth musical she’s directed for Tunkhannock. Previously, she was the pit orchestra accompanist for many years. Geary teaches elementary music at Evans Falls and Mill City.
“I chose the show for one reason, and one reason alone – the music,” Geary said when asked why she selected ‘The Wiz.’ “The music for this production features so many different styles, including rock, gospel, soul, and rhythm and blues. It has been amazing listening to the actors put their own personal spin on their vocal solos, adding their own flair to the now famous songs from the original score. And as a pianist, it is the most fun musical score I have ever played!”
‘The Wiz’ is an extremely large and ambitious project, which features special challenges for everyone involved in the production.
“We have had two major challenges working through this production,” Geary explained. “First, and most obviously this season, the weather. We have had countless rehearsals cancelled due to winter weather, and that has been very frustrating for the actors and the directors - it feels like we’ve been playing catchup from the very beginning.
“Our second challenge is that our students all have very different and very demanding schedules,” she continued. “Many of our actors are involved in spring sports, school activities, dance studios, have part time jobs - the list goes on and on. It is rare to have a full rehearsal with every member of our cast, crew, and pit orchestra. We haven’t had one yet. Our students are always jumping to help when an actor or crew member is missing for another commitment. However, I feel it is our job as directors, coaches, instructors and leaders to support our students in all their endeavors, no matter where their varied skills and interests may take them.”
The cast, crew and orchestra now have several dress rehearsals under the belt, and things now appear to be moving smoothly toward opening night.
Hannah Chesner, 18, is no stranger to the Tunkhannock stage.
“This is my eight production,” she explained. “I’ve appeared in ‘Once Upon a Mattress,’ ‘Break a Leg,’ ‘Footloose,’ ‘The Last Gladiator,’ ‘Cinderella,’ and ‘Crazytown.’”
Her challenge in portraying Dorothy, Chesner explained, was getting in touch with her ‘inner child.’
“She’s young. She’s suppose to be 13 to 14 years old,” Chesner said.
Chesner is not too picky about her roles when it comes to music.
“As long as it is something I can sing along,” she said.
Daniel Matson, 17, is portraying the Tin Woodsman. Among his other acting credits is the Prince last year in ‘Cinderella’ as well as a news anchor in ‘Crazytown.’
“This is by far one of the most fun roles I’ve ever had, hands down,” Matson said. “The singing is most expansive in range and style. It’s also extremely well done and I love the music.”
Portraying Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, is Jamie Murray, 18. Murray has appeared in ‘Once Upon a Mattress,’ ‘The Last Gladiator,’ and ‘Crazytown.’
“It’s been a blast,” she said about the production. ‘It’s so much fun. It’s good to be a part of this because we’re so close to each other.”
Myhael Harvey, 14, is a new comer to the Tunkhannock high school stage. He is appearing as The Lion, one of the show’s pivotal roles.
“It’s a really crazy show,” Harvey explained. “It’s packed full of some awesome dances. It’s got it all,” he said.
The reason he tried out for the role, Harvey said, is he and some friends were watching the movie version of ‘The Wiz’ and he loved the part of The Lion.
“My friends told me, you should be in that show,” he said.
Jessica Kaneski, 16, plays Addaperle, the Good Witch of the South.
“She’s suppose to be the comic relief of the show,” Kaneski explained. “She’s very ditzy and charming and corny. You never know what she is going to say. She’s the ‘Ghetto Witch.’”
Performing as the Scarecrow is Nathan Stark, 16.
“I find it really fun,” he said. “It’s fun because we’re all performing together. If you’re hung up or in trouble, they will help you.”
Nathan Johnson, 17 is portraying the Wizard.
“I love it,” he said. “There’s so much talent and energy.”
Johnson said he finds the Wizard a challenge “... because he’s angry and yelling a lot. I tend to be optimistic.”
Jordana Bach, 17, is performing the role of Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West.
“It’s great, it’s such a great role,” she said. “I tend to be quiet, but she is real pushy and a dictator. She has this evil energy.”
Other cast members include Levi Westfield as Uncle Henry, Elaine Lance as Aunt Em, and Breezy Corker, Alexia Diaz, Rachel Kenia, Crystalynn Richter, and Amanda Rushworth as Yellow Brick Road.
Other principal people involved in the production include Ryan Holdredge, assistant director/choreographer; Pam Holdredge, choreographer; Tara Kasperowski, musical director; Ken Luckey, pit orchestra conductor; and Jeff Howell, light and sound director.
Geary also provided another tidbit of interesting information concerning Tunkhannock’s production of ‘The Wiz.’
“Tunkhannock staged this musical once before in 1988,” she said. “We have heard recently that some cast members from that production are getting together to come and see this new generation of students perform the same show with the same great music. We sincerely hope we do the show justice, and can recreate for them the same feelings they once had when they graced the TAHS stage 30 years ago.”
The performances will be held on April 13 and 14, in the high school auditorium at 7 p.m. Tickets will be available at the door. Reserved seating in the center three sections is $8, and general admission is $7.