EMS Wowed the Crowd With “The Wizard Of Oz” Musical

March 1, 2022 / Jillian Lynch, Daily News-Record
Eli Stoll '22, Clair Parsley '22, Silas Sawatzky '22, and Ben Huyard '23, follow the yellow brick road during the 2022 musical, "The Wizard of Oz." Photo by Joaquin Sosa
The Wizard of Oz, photo by Joaquin Sosa

More than 90 students were involved in the EMS’ musical production of “The Wizard of Oz,” March 24-27, 2022. Students were involved on stage, in the pit orchestra, and in set design and creation, props, make up, and technical support behind the scenes. This Daily News-Record article, by Jillian Lynch, March 1, 2022, captures the excitement.Nearly 1500 guests over four nights enjoyed the pageantry.

Many audience members were standing at the end of a school musical Sunday.

Eastern Mennonite School’s auditorium was sold out for the 3 p.m. matinee of “The Wizard of Oz,” a musical production that ran at the school Friday through Sunday.

And the cast, crew and production from the private, K-12 Christian school didn’t disappoint.

The show starred senior Claire Parsley as Dorothy Gale. Accompanied by her trusty dog Toto, played by a real dog for parts of the show, Dorothy set off to run away from the Kansas farm she lived on with her Aunt Em, played by junior Emily Hess, and Uncle Henry, played by sophomore Ryan Hostetter.

Before she could turn back, Dorothy and Toto were swept up in a tornado. The storm was acted out onstage by an ensemble of twister cancers, with black ribbons and a storm scene that doubles as a set change.

With a few turns of the set pieces, Dorothy’s Kansas farm was transformed into a fantastic Munchkinland. Senior stage managers Hannah Hendricks and Anneke McDonald made sure everything ran smoothly.

In Munchkinland, Dorothy met Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, played by junior Naomi Diener, and the Munchkins, played by more than 20 elementary school students clad in candy-colored outfits.

Diener’s character instructed Dorothy to follow the yellow brick road to the City of Oz, where the Wizard of Oz, played by senior Ricky Castaneda, can help her return home.

On the way, Dorothy meets friends the Scarecrow, played by junior Benjamin Huyard, the Tin Man, played by senior Silas Roth-Sawatzky, and the Cowardly Lion, played by senior Eli Stoll. Parsley said she wanted to thank the actors and their understudy, sophomore Mac Rhodes-Lehman.

“There have been days I’ve shown up to practice and been completely out of sorts, and they’ve each supported me in different ways,” Parsley said.

Dorothy and her friends also met the evil Wicked Witch of the West, played by junior Anna Miller.

Director Joy Anderson said it was the friends’ search for a heart, a brain, courage and a home that inspired her.

“As we bring our characters to life, we have the task and privilege of looking deeply into ourselves and into other people and finding empathy, understanding and connection,” Anderson said in a director’s note. “To see ourselves as God’s beloved children, created exactly as we are — that is one of theatre’s gifts.”

Stoll, who also plays farmhand Zeke, said he owned being a big character. He said Anderson had been one of his biggest supporters.

“Ms. Anderson has been a teacher of mine since I was 4,” Stoll said. “She’s been one, if not the most influential teacher I’ve had through my entire life.”

Roth-Sawatsky said a big unsung hero in the production was Rhodes-Lehman, who learned the lines for all three of Dorothy’s friends in addition to having three roles in the play, including the Guard of the Emerald City Gates.

Ensembles in the show also included the partner-dancing Jitterbugs, Poppies, Snowflakes, Ozians, Winkies and Flying Monkeys. The show’s choreographer was Suzanne Trow. Diener also served as the assistant choreographer.

The show also featured an orchestra of 10 students, including strings, piano, reeds, brass and percussion instruments. The orchestra director was Nick Gardner.

The production was also led by assistant director Leah Huyard, along with technical director Mark Gornto and art director Malea Gascho, along with other members of the technical crew.

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1 Comment

  1. Susan W. Albers on March 10, 2022 at 9:30 pm

    This wonderful, spectacular production could have been on Broadway. So much talent! Such beautiful voices! Incredible settings and scenery! Fabulous dancing! Gifted acting! And it was delightful to see the participation of the younger students. I haven’t words adequate to give the highest praise to Eastern Mennonite School.

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