Follow the yellow brick road to London High School

Messenger photo by Kristy Zurbrick
Gearing up for London High School’s production of “The Wizard of Oz” are: (front row, from left) Josh Lickliter as the Lion, Kyleigh Wilson as Dorothy, Cole Wiggins as the Tinman; (back row) Anthony Holfinger as the Wizard of Oz, Gabi Wolverton as Glinda, and Julie Dunkley as Almira Gulch/Wicked Witch of the West. Nathan Taylor, who plays the Scarecrow, wasn’t available for the photo but was there in spirit (bottom left).

(Posted March 2, 2022)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

For the directors of London High School’s production of “The Wizard of Oz,” a large cast, a mix of age groups, and new technology are making for a challenging and enjoyable trip down the yellow brick road.

“We have between 55 and 60 in the cast, and 29 of those are from the elementary school. It’s the largest cast we’ve had in recent musicals,” said Scott Blanton, director.

Third- through fifth-grade students from London Elementary are filling the Munchkin roles, including the ensembles known as the Lullaby League and the Lollipop Guild. Blanton said the youngsters have been quick to learn the music and choreography.

The high-schoolers include a combination of veteran stage performers and newbies. And while the show is a source of nostalgia for the adult directors, some of the students had never seen “The Wizard of Oz” before becoming part of the production.

“So, for us adults, in a sense, doing this show is our attempt to keep the appreciation for it going,” Blanton said.

Among the students playing lead roles are junior Kyleigh Wilson, who is putting her musical and acting talents to work as Dorothy. Her trusty companions on the journey through Oz are: senior Cole Wiggins as the Tinman, senior Nathan Taylor as the Scarecrow, and sophomore Josh Lickliter as the Lion. Daisy, the dog of former high school musical director Teri Gray, guest stars as Toto.

Audiences can expect plenty of spectacular song and dance numbers, from Dorothy’s iconic “Over the Rainbow” to the Lion’s “King of the Forest.” And as has become a London High School theater department tradition, the show includes a tap dance number that fills the stage.

“We’re doing ‘The Jitterbug,’ which was cut from the original movie but was in the musical version,” Blenton said.

The colorful dream world that is Oz begs for fabulous costuming and set design. Blanton praised seamstress Helen Studebaker for tackling the costume work, which includes outfitting actors as everything from witches to flying monkeys.

As for the sets, the theater department is attempting something new.

“The exciting thing we’re trying this year is using digital projection for the backdrop,” Blanton explained. “We have two digital projectors lined up to show scenes on the back curtain. It involves motion graphics. It’s a whole different realm of theater that we’re trying to do.”

Blanton is appreciative of the support the show has received from parents and community partners, extending a special thank-you to Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie 950 for sponsoring a Meet the Characters event coming up on March 5 and to Madison Health for the digital projectors.

“We wouldn’t be able to do this without them,” he said.

Joining Blanton in coordinating the show are: Jeff Gates, assistant director; Jessi Dunham, music director; and Danielle Fredette and Alicia Skinner, choreographers.

Show times for “The Wizard of Oz” are: March 11, 7 p.m.; March 12, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.; and March 13, 2 p.m. All shows take place at London High School.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students and can only be purchased online at Wizard of Oz Tickets. No tickets will be sold at the door.

A Meet The Characters event is set for March 5 from 9 to 11 a.m. in the high school commons. The cost is $5 per person at the door. Admission includes photos with cast members (including Dorothy, Tin Man, Scarecrow, Lion and Munchkins), Emerald City pastries from Der Dutchman, arts and crafts, Wizard of Oz tattoos, a photo booth, a preview of Oz musical numbers, and pre-sale of Wizard of Oz souvenirs.

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