Preview article by Gail M. Burns, November 2003
The spacious auditorium at Drury High School is slowly but surely being transformed into somewhere over the rainbow, as the Drury Drama Team, supported by a host of others in the community, prepare to present The Wizard of Oz November 21-23. Dr. Len Radin has assembled two full casts, numbering about 30 each, along with an enormous technical team to present this musical extravaganza in 26 scenes which requires ten sets – not to mention twisters, dogs, talking trees, holographic wizards, and much, much more!
Radin is especially pleased to be working with so many Drury alumni, including Musical Director Scott Bailey and Choreographer Liz Urban. “It is wonderful to see my alumni returning to Drury. They have grown into such responsible performing arts professionals. I am impressed with how well they have been able to work with a wide variety of ages and abilities in this production.”
Radin has reached well outside of the Drury student body to assemble his team for this show, turning it in to true community theatre. Munchkins from local elementary schools share the stage with high school students, alums, and seasoned professionals. Bailey is leading a community orchestra that includes many Drury and MCLA musicians.
While the script and music for this version of The Wizard of Oz follows that of the classic 1939 MGM movie closely, Radin finds more inspiration in L. Frank Baum’s original 1900 book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and has peppered his program with the book’s original illustrations by W.W. Denslow.
“The book is about a little girl who goes on an adventure,” Radin explained, “While the movie is about an adolescent who has a dream. I am very careful in my production to separate the farmhand characters from the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman, and the Cowardly Lion who Dorothy meets in Oz.”
Lyman Frank Baum (1856-1919) was a staunch advocate of the Women’s Sufferage movement in at the turn of the 20th century, and was a friend and ally of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in their efforts to get women the vote. While he and his wife Maud had only sons, Baum’s Oz stories are filled with young women who are strong, brave, and adventurous, and who fill leadership roles in Ozian society.
These themes are fascinating to Radin, a father of three daughters, which is no doubt the reason he has mounted productions of The Wizard of Oz twice in the past decade.
Radin is quick to point out that the Drury Drama Team is a completely self-funded organization, earning its keep through program ad sales and ticket sales. “And the community is always tremendously generous,” Radin added, “People freely donate their time, goods and services.”
Thanks to Radin’s efforts participation in the Drama Team earns students academic credit at Drury. Students involved in each production get grades and lengthy evaluations. New to the curriculum this year is an honors course in advanced theatre, of which Radin is very proud.
A visit to a Cast A dress rehearsal on November 15, a week away from opening night, revealed a performance already well on its way to being polished. Energy abounded, especially when the 30-odd Munchkins made their appearance to sing and dance their way through Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead and Follow the Yellow Brick Road.
Cast A will perform at 7 p.m. on Saturday, November 22 and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, November 23. Cast B performs at 7 p.m. on Friday, November 21 and at 2 p.m. on Saturday, November 22. All performances are held at Drury Senior High School (413-662-3240), 1130 South Church Street (Rt. 8A) in North Adams.
Tickets are $9 for adults and $6 for students and are on sale at Persnickety on Eagle Street and at Papyri Books on Main Street. Get yours now, because this cheerful family entertainment is sure to be popular during these gray November days which feel more like Kansas than Oz!
copyright Gail M. Burns, 2003