It's been a rough couple of months for Phil Neely, Redmond High School's theater director. Tomorrow, he'll find out if it's all been worth it. Thursday night marks the opening of "The Wizard of Oz," the biggest production by the high school theater department in recent memory.
With 37 high school actors filling the core roles, 40 elementary school students as munchkins, a 17-piece orchestra and a dog set to make its debut as Toto, Neely's hands are more than full. As if that wasn't crowded enough, there's the set. Over the last several weeks, a tech crew of 10 students has been busy designing and building dozens of backdrops, wooden trees, platforms, and a towering gate for the Emerald City. The theater was still a mess as of last week's first tech crew walkthrough, with students forced to dance around piles of wood scraps and coiled extension cords as they dragged the set pieces from the wings to the stage and back again.
Despite the stress and the race to get everything finished in time for Thursday, Neely is upbeat. "It looks good and I'm feeling good about it," he said. "I just can't get any sleep because I keep remembering what I have to do - the list gets longer and longer and time gets shorter and shorter so things keep falling off the list."
When the school first started gearing up for the production two months ago, Neely said he'd been warned to avoid working with animals or small children. In both cases, he's been pleasantly surprised. The school held an open casting call for the role of Toto in early April. "Sandy," a terrier owned by RHS teacher Amy Nickell was cast in the role, and has since been on the same grueling rehearsal schedule as the rest of the cast. "She's done a really good job," Neely said. "(Nickell) told me that when they pull in the parking lot, she gets all excited now, because she knows what she's going to do, she's going to get to go and be on stage and everything and have a hundred people trying to touch her."
Neely said he's found some talented actors among the munchkins, 2nd through 4th-graders drawn from local elementary schools. He expects some of them will be outstanding performers once they get to high school. "There are a couple of munchkins who are just incredible," he said. "They're good little singers, right on cue and they're crystal clear. It's just amazing that they're that good now."
-- story by Scott Hammers, photos by Leslie Pugmire Hole
The high school will be hosting four performances of the show: at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday; and at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for students, and there's a family pass that buys two adult and up to three children's admissions for $20. Tickets are available at the theater starting one hour before show times.