The cast and crew have a pep talk before rehearsal begins motivating everyone to be the best they can be.
As soon as the bell rings for the end of the school day at East Lansing High School, anxious and excited theater students head to the auditorium for rehearsal for their upcoming show. As they scramble to get into costume, you cannot walk a hallway near the auditorium without encountering bubbly students bouncing with energy. They are getting ready for The Wiz, a musical based on The Wizard of Oz.
125 students are involved in the production including actors, chorus, dancers, technicians, and a full band in the pit. Senior Ndega McCloud, who plays the Wiz, says that throughout the High School, students are “bound to have someone you know working in or on the show.”
The ELHS Theater Department will offer seven performances over nine days. Senior Sam Sprague, who plays the Lion, notes that the cast and crew began preparation in early January. Sprague says “rehearsal can be as long as four hours each day.” McCloud also added that on Sunday they practiced for nearly six hours. These long rehearsals, especially on the weekends, are not unusual for the cast and crew. They want to make sure everything is the best as it can be for opening night.
Compared to other shows they’ve done during high school, John Miller-Purrenhage, the senior playing the Tinman, says The Wiz is “more amiable… we’ve built chemistry pretty quickly.” Mathieu Wiesner, the junior playing The Scarecrow, noted that some past shows have been stressful in terms of coming together for opening night, but feels much more confident about this show. “This has seemed to be a lot smoother. Everyone is already doing what they need to be doing which relieves some tension.” He and the rest of the cast and crew, are extremely excited to show audiences what they’ve been working so hard on these past few months.
One of the show’s biggest characters is Dorothy, played by senior Savannah Sodeman. She has participated in all eight shows of her high school career but has never had a role as large as this one. “I think it’s a lot more stressful because I never leave stage and I have so many lines. But, it is also extremely rewarding because I am working harder than I ever have.” She believes the modern aspect of the show will draw in more crowds. “We’ve been doing shows based in the 50s and 60s. It’s a lot different than what we’ve done in the past four years. I’m excited for people to see.”
As for the show itself, Miller-Purrenhage believes “there are a lot of elements to it. It’s a bigger show… there’s a lot of sets, there’s a lot of songs. It’s really ambitious.” The group expects near sold-out crowds for each of the seven nights. Musicals can be more popular than any other type of show, and Miller-Purrenhage said the show is relatable for audiences. “It’s the same reason people love The Wizard of Oz…everyone at some point in their lives is looking for a brain, heart, courage, or a home. It will speak to a lot of people.”
Once the show goes live, the preparation and hard work of the cast and crew will be seen by audiences. The shows will begin on March 20 and run through March 29. To see a full list of show times and to order tickets, visit www.elps.us/theatre. Tickets may also be purchased at the door.
East Lansing High School is located at 509 Burcham Drive.