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Inspire: Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School presents The Wizard of Oz

The show opened with a pair of performances on Thursday, and wraps up with a show at the Manitouwadge High School theatre on Friday evening.

There’s a new yellow brick road in town, and it leads straight to the Manitouwadge High School theatre, where the youth edition of The Wizard of Oz is being staged.

The show opened on Thursday afternoon to a large, enthusiastic crowd. Although it had its glitches, the cast, crew, and audience delighted in the colourful costumes, sets, and music.
Auditions were held in March, and since then, there’s been a hurricane of activity to get the play ready for the stage. Betty Gillman, the woman behind the curtain, so to speak, has her hands full as director, producer, and set designer. She is assisted by a dedicated crew of school staff and parents, who work countless hours creating props, costumes, and special effects. 

The cast members range in age from four to 13, with the little ones playing munchkins, flowers, and the background action. The middle students act as menacing trees, monkeys, crows, and Winkie guards. The actors portraying Dorothy, Toto, the Tin Man, the Lion, the Scarecrow, Glinda the good witch, and of course, the Wizard of Oz himself, have become a close-knit group of friends throughout the production.

“I feel I’m in a group of friends I can trust,” says Abby, who plays the cowardly lion. Nicole, who portrays Dorothy, says with a shy smile. “Even though we didn’t know each other when we first started, we’re friends now. It’s kind of exciting.”

Her little dog, Toto, played by her school mate, Carter, agreed with a “Woof!”

Anders, who plays the dual role of Professor Marvel and the Wizard of Oz, has immersed himself in the characters.

“I’m having so much fun," he said, "especially when I get to read the Wizard lines when I’m behind the curtain.”

They’ve learned to improvise, both when they are reading their lines, and with their costumes. Hunter, who plays the Tin Man, had to have his helmet taped to his head mid-performance because it kept falling off.  

“The costume is so hot. It’s made of cardboard and duct tape. I’m going to wear shorts for the rest of the shows.”

Emmett who wears the hay covered clothing of the Scarecrow, had a similar complaint, “The straw is so itchy. But I don’t care. I’m having so much fun, especially doing the Jitterbug dance.”

Besides the actors, some of the students are involved in backstage activities, including running the sound and lighting boards, preparing props, and moving sets. For almost everyone, this is a new experience.

“This is the first show we’ve put on in five years,” Gillman says. “It’s been a real challenge, because the seasoned cast and crew have grown up and moved on. We’ve had to start with a whole new set of students. Our sound and lighting technicians just jumped into their positions and are learning as they go. 

It’s exciting to see the potential in them, to see them grow. Often the kids don’t even know how good they are. They find their spot, their calling, and you can see the change in them. They come out of their shell. They’re more confident, and, just like the cowardly lion’s dream come true, they’ve found their courage. 

One more performance is scheduled Friday evening at 6:30 p.m. at the Manitouwadge High School. Tickets can be purchased at the door.

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