For Urbana Elementary’s first-ever musical—“Oz!” presented by the Urbana Elementary School PTA in collaboration with the Maryland Ensemble Theatre (MET)—140 students in kindergarten through fifth grade auditioned this November. “The goal was to give everyone a part,” said Barbara Maucher, UES PTA Family Involvement Committee co-chair. The play was written for 80 cast members, she noted, but all 140 who auditioned were offered parts.
She and co-chair Carey Murphy were very happy with—and a bit surprised by—the turnout. From speaking to other schools, they had been told that most audition calls involve 40 to 60 students, Maucher said. The musical more than fulfilled their committee’s mission to get more families involved in school activities.
“It’s been great,” Maucher said. “Carey and I have been happy with how many parents have stepped up to help. We’ve met new people and made new friends.”
Only 10 students have dropped out of the production. “It says a lot about parent commitment,” Maucher said. “There are so many kids.”
The musical was offered as a free, afterschool club organized by Maucher, Murphy and Play Committee members Sherry Bombich, Jamie Hoover-Haney and Megan Hook. Parent volunteers, one per 10 kids, made this possible by supervising kids during rehearsals and providing snacks. “Without the parents, we couldn’t have done it,” Maucher said.
Rehearsals were run by MET, which has a special schools program, Maucher said. In addition to conducting weekly rehearsals, MET supplied costumes for the Feb. 22, 7 p.m. and Feb. 23, 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. productions in the Urbana Elementary at Sugarloaf cafeteria.
“Oz!” is based on the classic L. Frank Baum story but adapted into a musical. According to the Pioneer Drama website, “This bright musical is charged with a bundle of wonderful songs and thrill after thrill … like the escape from the Fighting Trees and encountering the enchanted poppies. Eventually, Glinda the Good Witch helps Dorothy defeat the evil witch and her winged monkeys. The great and powerful wizard grants Dorothy’s friends their wishes and of course, helps Dorothy return to Kansas.”
Prior to tech week rehearsals that involved the entire case, rehearsals were held by character, such as the Munchkins or Citizens of Oz, Maucher explained. Main characters were played by fourth and fifth graders—Mackenzie Massey (Dorothy), Cyrus Haney (Tin Woodsman), Piper Estok (Cowardly Lion), Searlait Hoyt (Scarecrow), Vidhyuth Viswanathan (OZ), Lily Harris (Glinda the Good Witch), Campbell Fedders (The Wicked Witch of the West), and Katie Romans (Auntie Em). First graders played the Yellow Brick Road, second and third graders Munchkins, and third graders Citizens of Oz, with kindergartners as Poppies. UES afterschool activities are traditionally open only to first grade and up, but “we felt it would be good to include them (kindergartners),” Maucher said, as the musical’s activity level and imaginative play is great for that age group.
Maucher said that it has been nice to see the different age groups interact as they created the musical. As they sing songs and act, “this has been a great group experience outside of the classroom,” she added.