10 April 2012

Children Got Travelin’ Shoes

Rehearsals continue for Brooklyn P.S. 29’s fifth-grade production of The Wizard of Oz, as chronicled by co-director Helene Stapinski:
At his first rehearsal, [new pianist/music director] Allan takes all the leads and has them sing their signature songs to his accompaniment to help find the right keys. One by one they climb on stage and let it rip. The rest of the cast is seated, silently, in the auditorium, reading and doing homework, their heads down.

Glinda gets up to sing “Come Out, Come Out Where Ever You Are.” When she delivers the line, “Kansas, she says, is the name of the star,” she is joined spontaneously by a multitude of munchkins, who don’t even raise their heads from their books, but deliver their echo on cue, in unison — “Kansas, she says, is the name of the star.” Their small voices rise up from the dark auditorium, giving me chills.

When Mary Leigh belts out “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” everyone in the auditorium just stops what they’re doing and looks up. They sit there, mouths open, as Mary Leigh knocks it out of the park. It’s so beautiful with Allan’s piano accompaniment that I have to fight back a terribly strong urge to sob right there in the auditorium. I just stand there in the aisle and bite my lip and swallow hard.

I realize that it’s not just the song that’s killing me. I look around the auditorium. Aidan, Dean, Eggy (real named Edward), Maddie, Bit, Nicky, and the rest of the munchkins, they’re all slumped or sitting up straight in their wooden backed chairs, but are all paying proud, full attention to their friend and co-star. They look so much older than they did six months ago.
There’s also the challenge of “how to make the ruby slippers magically appear on Dorothy’s feet”—i.e., recreating a movie special effect on the stage. Of course, that wouldn’t be an issue in adapting from L. Frank Baum’s book, where characters handle the silver shoes in a down-to-earth way:
The feet of the dead Witch had disappeared entirely, and nothing was left but the silver shoes.

“She was so old,” explained the Witch of the North, “that she dried up quickly in the sun. That is the end of her. But the silver shoes are yours, and you shall have them to wear." She reached down and picked up the shoes, and after shaking the dust out of them handed them to Dorothy.
Dorothy sensibly puts her shoes on one foot at a time even after she’s inadvertently offed her second witch:
With these words the Witch fell down in a brown, melted, shapeless mass and began to spread over the clean boards of the kitchen floor. Seeing that she had really melted away to nothing, Dorothy drew another bucket of water and threw it over the mess. She then swept it all out the door. After picking out the silver shoe, which was all that was left of the old woman, she cleaned and dried it with a cloth, and put it on her foot again.

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