Last month, Bethel High School put on their annual musical production, and this year the cast and crew tackled the classic, The Wizard of Oz. The extremely talented cast, starring Kathryn Kennedy (’14) as Dorothy, Kelly Roper (’14) as the Wicked Witch of the West, Caroline Renner (’14) as the Scarecrow, Mark Tully (’16) as the Tin Man, Chase Gray (’16) as the Cowardly Lion, and Natalia Stifano (’14) as Glinda the Good Witch, carried the show from start to finish, accompanied by an ensemble and dancers that supported and shined alongside them. I was fortunate enough to talk to some of the major players in this production as they reflected on their sold out performances and how it felt to be a part of the community of the show.
Kathryn Kennedy, who has participated in the BHS musical productions for all four years of high school, and most memorably portrayed Belle in last year’s production of Beauty and the Beast, once again filled the stage with grace and a thrilling voice as Dorothy Gale this year. Her rendition of “Over the Rainbow” left the audience craving more, and she commented on how she felt the role impacted her, saying, “The best part of any show is seeing the development of each character, and the progression of the production. It’s amazing to see how each person shapes their character more and more with each rehearsal and how the individual development contributes to the whole show.”
In agreement with Kennedy, Kelly Roper felt that character development also reigned supreme in the process of playing The Wicked Witch of the West, for she wished to add her own personal flair to the iconic role. Roper was most excited for playing a role not necessarily defined by humor and commented, “Characters I play are usually comedic, and so is the Witch to an extent, but I’ve never been able to work with comedy in the context of darkness.” As she developed this persona, she turned to one of her favorite TV shows, Once Upon a Time, for inspiration, specifically the character, Rumplestiltskin. She added, “He is a realistic evil, as his twisted sense of humor and passion for dramatic flair distinguish his darkness from other villains.”
As Caroline Renner began preparing for her role as the Scarecrow, she was not so concerned that the role had been “gender-bended”, but rather focused on how to realistically portray a living scarecrow. Renner felt that the role allowed her “to try and connect to an inanimate object… allowing the scarecrow to have a personality and thoughts and actions.” Through developing the character, she feels she also has taken away, “new perspectives and a newly active imagination from the role.”
Lead dancer and dance captain, Ashley Johnson (’14), recalls her leadership role as enjoyable, enthusiastically stating, “I love dancing and it was great to be able to interact with everyone.” Also, when asked her favorite dance numbers in the show, she couldn’t choose between two, exclaiming, “My favorite number to dance in would be either the Tin Man scene because I love to tap or “Jitterbug” because it was a huge dance number and everyone loved it!” Lead dancer, Kasey Burke (’14), agrees with Johnson in her choice of her favorite dance number, adding, “I absolutely loved the tin man tap scene because I love tap numbers, and working with Mark [Tully], Ashley [Johnson], and [Choreographer] Jenn Correnty on it was a wonderful experience.”
On the technical end, I was able to discuss the behind the scenes work that occurred in order to make the production possible, and who better than Stage Manager, Lindsay Jenkinson (’14) to provide me with the ins and outs of her experiences backstage? Jenkinson believes that paying her dues on stage crew throughout her high school years have led up to this moment and was excited to let me know, saying, “I am usually dealing with the more complex technical elements included in the show including the Wicked Witch melting and constructing and controlling the Oz head.” When people question how she can find her work so rewarding while not physically present on stage and receiving applause for it, she feels as though people do not understand the reality of crew and managing. She justifies, “I find that operating these aspects of the show to be especially rewarding since the audience really reacts to these elements that I am able to create.”
Looking forward to next year, the show may not be decided upon, nor is the cast, but one aspect is for certain, and that is that Justin Fargiano (’15) will be taking over the role of Stage Manager after Jenkinson graduates this year. Fargiano is already thinking about the responsibility he will hold, and excitedly comments, “I’m so pumped for next year. I’m looking forward to having a fun time with all of the crew and putting on a great show. I’m also super excited to use dry ice and confetti for any chance we get.” So until next year, the community anxiously awaits the next BHS musical production, and congratulations to the wonderful cast and crew of The Wizard of Oz!