Show #17: The Wizard of OzWhere: St. Francis Xavier High SchoolDirector: Kate TurnbullRaee Sahu, Lead CriticColonel By Secondary SchoolFollowing the yellow brick road never did any harm. Yet when you’ve had your fill of adventure, there truly is no place like home. St. Francis Xavier High School’s production of The Wizard of Oz was grounded in genuine, homey delight for the bonds of friendship and family.Preceded by a movie starring Judy Garland, a Broadway show by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jeremy Sams, and a book by L. Frank Baum, the play follows a well-established and beloved story. Dorothy and her dog Toto are whisked away to Munchkinland by a cyclone from their home in Kansas, and what lies in store is an ensemble of faithful companions, a wicked witch, and a mighty promise by the Wizard of Oz in a classic tale of loyalty and earnest love.One highlight of the whole performance was the wholesome nature of the cast’s acting. Characters were played with heartfelt honesty that translated into nuance and believability, such as in the example of Isabella MacKay’s portrayal of Aunt Em’s anguish through sorrowful facial expressions and corresponding vocal inflections that suggested a broken woman, convincingly conveying the impact of Dorothy’s disappearance.In the role of the loveable Dorothy was Ireland Huibers, whose infectious grin and twinkling eyes appropriately emphasized the childish hopefulness of her character. Huibers’ sweet vocal tone reinforced this aspect of Dorothy’s nature, while her authentic dynamic with Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Lion added another dimension to her character: one of sincerity and natural kindness.
Mary Bagley, Ireland Huibers, Benjamin Smith and Bryce Batten perform as The Cowardly Lion, Dorothy, The Tin Man and The Scarecrow during St. Francis Xavier’s Cappies production of The Wizard of Oz on Apr. 12 2019; in Ottawa, Ontario.
The supporting cast featured more than a few talented individuals. For one, Bryce Batten’s physicality as Scarecrow was impressive. From the second he was released from his pole, his unsteadiness as a man made of straw was immediately apparent in several skilfully executed falls and a consistent wobble. The exaggerated portrayal of cowardice by Mary Bagley in the constant clutching of her tail and nasal delivery contrasted her guttural “roars” for an effective comic performance as Lion. The crazed fire in Amanda Hawes’ eyes combined with her distinctly scrunched-up facial features and periodic screeches, which created a perfectly demented Wicked Witch of the West that screamed evil.Hair and makeup served to enhance characters’ roles and personalities. Particularly successful looks included Lion’s huge frizzy hair to signify a mane as well as contrast her nervousness by underlying her actual big personality, and the worry-lines and wrinkles that outlined the faces of the old couple, Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. Furthermore, Lisa Uchelimafor outdid herself with her composition of four original songs, “Just the Way I like It” standing out for its malicious cello line contributing to the grim atmosphere of the witch’s lair.With admirable determination and a hefty helping of heart, St. Francis Xavier High School’s rendition of The Wizard of Oz was true to the spirit of the timeless story.Zaina Khan, CriticElmwood SchoolYou’re on your way, on your way, on your way! Click your radiant ruby red slippers three times and follow the yellow brick road to the wonderful world of St. Francis Xavier High School’s production of The Wizard of Oz.Published in 1900, L. Frank Baum’s timeless childhood classic The Wizard of Oz was first performed in 1902 and later adapted into the much-beloved film in 1939. The Wizard of Oz chronicles the dreamy Dorothy and her odyssey to the magical land of Oz. When our heroine gets caught in a disorienting cyclone, the young charge finds herself in an unfamiliar land. In attempts to return to Kansas, Dorothy ventures from Munchkinland to the Emerald City, seeking help from the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Along the way, Dorothy encounters three anthropomorphic creatures – a spry Scarecrow, a rusty Tin Woodman and a Cowardly Lion – who join her quest in hopes to have their own wishes granted. As the quartet treks through the psychedelic world, hand in hand, they learn that things they most desire may already be in their possession.Ireland Huibers convincingly embodied the youthful Dorothy with unwavering energy and poise. Encapsulating the ethereal essence of her character, Huibers’ delicate voice brimmed with childlike innocence, demonstrating Dorothy’s wonderment as she explored an utterly fantastical realm. She exhibited authenticity through distinct facial expressions and showcased her vocal talent in her rendition of student lyricist and composer Lisa Uchelimafor’s sweet song “When Little Girls Fly.”In the role of the charming Scarecrow, Bryce Batten’s captivating performance shone with spirit and skill. His commitment to his character was emphasized through his consistent physicality, epitomizing the Scarecrow’s limber stance. Batten’s delivery included clear articulation, while his impeccable comedic timing enhanced the light-hearted tone of the production. Mary Bagley’s depiction of the timid Lion was filled with emotional versatility as she seamlessly shifted between Lion’s ferocious nature and timorous sentiments towards her roar. Bagley’s majestic movements augmented her powerful presence; whereas her nuanced gestures illustrated her character’s yearning for courage.
Timothy Brochez (left), Claire Ponesse (second from the left) and Elijah Dorval performed in St. Francis Xavier’s High School’s Cappies production of the Wizard of Oz, on April 12, 2019, in Ottawa, Ont.
Isabella MacKay played the role of the endearing Aunt Em with ease and sincerity, expressing her nurturing nature as a maternal figure to Dorothy. She maintained a crisp Southern accent throughout the length of the performance. MacKay displayed raw emotion and vulnerability, conveying her character’s despair and sorrow when Dorothy went missing after the twister.The Cyclonic Sets astutely created a vivid Oz through the use of iridescent emerald embellishments, while the periaktoi design allowed for functionality among the pieces. The team’s stylistic choices consisted of a stark contrast between Kansas and Oz through the clever juxtaposition of colours, reinforcing Dorothy’s displacement from the bleak prairies to a gleaming land. Similarly, the Emerald City Outfitters included immaculate detailing to their costumes, such as the identical pattern on Dorothy’s monochromatic and coloured dresses, while the Somewhere Over the Makeup Palette Hair and Makeup Crew designed a variety of creative guises such as Lion’s mane and Tin Woodman’s metallic appearance.The cast and crew of St. Francis Xavier High School’s rendition of The Wizard of Oz delightfully retold a tale of camaraderie and compassion with enchantment and enthusiasm, reminding us that there is “no place like home.”Gill Hurd, CriticGlebe Collegiate InstituteMagic crackled as St. Francis Xavier Catholic High School conjured The Wizard of Oz to the stage. The school’s Coyote Cast and Crew delved into themes of home, self-reliance, and the importance of friendship in this vibrant production.The play, based on the classic novel, tells the story of Dorothy, a young Kansas girl and her dog, Toto, who are swept away by a cyclone. They find themselves in the Land of Oz, a fantasy world full of witches and magical creatures. To return home Dorothy must travel to the Emerald City to find the Wizard of Oz. Along the way she befriends a scarecrow, a tin woodman, and a cowardly lion.The Coyote Cast and Crew found a winning combination that even included an adorable canine Toto. The settings were portrayed masterfully, contrasting the grim monotony of Kansas with the wild whimsy of the Land of Oz. Four songs written entirely by student Lisa Uchelimafor added an unexpected facet to this imaginative play. In particular, “When Little Girls Fly” perfectly caught the exuberance of the Munchkin’s world.In the lead role of Dorothy, Ireland Huibers took her audience with her down the yellow brick road. The innocence, optimism and courage she brought to her role made her incredible journey believable. As a vocalist, Huibers’ tone was light and sweet, and she moved with an appealing, youthful energy.
St. Francis Xavier’s High School’s Cappies production of the Wizard of Oz.
Malcolm Benjamin Clegg
The actors always played well off each other. Bryce Batten was hilarious as the Scarecrow, and performed with a level of comedic physicality that brought the straw man to life. The Munchkin ensemble’s high-spirited hijinks made Dorothy’s arrival in Munchkinland one of the most memorable moments of the show. Although not all the ensemble had the same vocal ability, the engaging choreography made each number shine.The costumes, hair and makeup created a magical world and made challenging characters, such as Cowardly Lion and Tin Woodsman, look great. The sets effectively distinguished between the locations: the Kansas sets were drab and monochromatic, while Oz was lively and kaleidoscopic. The lighting also contrasted locations compellingly and emphasized characters’ emotions and personalities.St. Francis Xavier’s bubbly, whimsical production of The Wizard of Oz showed real heart, as well as courage and brain. Add to that a great sense of humour and talented performers; it’s no wonder that the Coyote Cast and Crew swept their audience up and away.Elizabeth Chen, CriticSir Robert Borden High SchoolFollow the yellow brick road, and the Wonderful Wizard of Oz will be waiting. However, when a little girl from Kansas follows this path in the hopes that the wizard will grant her wishes and send her home, she discovers that she herself possesses the power to end her wandering. With energetic cast performances and original world building elements, St. Francis Xavier High School put on a production of The Wizard of Oz with constant hilarity and moments of poignant emotion.Adapted from the classic 1990 novel penned by L. Frank Baum, this story has been brought to all the corners of the world with a successful Broadway show and the beloved 1939 musical film. This age-old tale follows the journey of a young girl who is unexpectedly transported from her home in Kansas to the eccentric and fantastical world of Munchkinland. In her quest to find her way home to her aunt and uncle, Dorothy is accompanied by three other friends who also search for something they lack. Through times of peril and difficulty, they must demonstrate all the intelligence, courage and love that they possess.Throughout the production, the whimsical nature of the play was brought out through clever transitions with ensemble members and unique performances by the cast.In the role of Dorothy, Ireland Huibers was unwaveringly earnest and sweet, with a constant smile and upbeat tone of voice. She appropriately conveyed the childlike awe of her character with moments such as the song “When Little Girls Fly.” Bryce Batten portrayed the scarecrow with an immense amount of dedication to the physicality of an individual made of straw, consistently using his entire body to fumble and fall his way across the stage. As the heartless Tin Woodman, Ben Smith utilized pronounced facial expressions to express both the sadness and joy of his character. The Cowardly Lion was brought to life by Mary Bagley, jumping and scattering to and fro in reaction to every possible event.
St. Francis Xavier’s High School’s Cappies production of the Wizard of Oz.
Malcolm Benjamin Clegg
As the villain of the show, Amanda Hawes played the Wicked Witch of the West with maniacal smiles and psychotic laughs, delivering a performance resembling the likeness of a fairy-tale villain. Kaitlyn Hughes employed over-the-top facial expressions and effective body language to play the Guardian of the Emerald City. Moreover, Claire Ponesse and Tim Brochez as Lunchkin and Dunchkin played off of each other to deliver a comedic scene, with exaggerated sighs and exasperated outbursts.Lisa Uchelimafor composed and wrote a handful of songs for the production, infusing her work with the fanciful nature of the story with clever rhymes. The hair, makeup, and costumes of the various characters suited their personalities, with standout elements such as glittering makeup and a handmade version of Dorothy’s iconic dress. Gels were utilized creatively for lighting aspects such as the Good Witch of the West’s pink bubble. The sets made the distinction clear between the black and white world of Kansas and the colourful land of Oz. Also, the sound crew consistently managed a number of shared microphones without issues.St. Francis Xavier High School utilized imaginative technical choices and enthusiastic cast performances in order to offer all the magic and fun for which The Wizard of Oz is famed.Maya Ladki, CriticElmwood SchoolA Brain, a Heart, and Courage. All traits that are needed to put on a stellar performance, and St. Francis Xavier High School did just that. Follow the yellow brick road for an unforgettable rendition of L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz.A country girl from Kansas and her dear dog Toto are whipped away by a horrendous cyclone, where they land in the magical land of Oz – a place filled with delightful and lively munchkins. Accompanied by a Scarecrow that needs a brain, the Tin Woodman that is lacking a heart, and a Cowardly Lion, the group must set out on a journey to the Emerald City in order to obtain what they need most. From meeting the Wonderful Wizard to being captured by the Wicked Witch of the West, this extraordinary adventure is surely one that they will never forget.Ireland Huibers portrayed the lively Dorothy with a strong range of emotions, and her energy shone throughout the play. Huibers’ chemistry with others on stage was brilliant, and she never lost her cheerful spirit, even in times of great distress. Isabella MacKay had an exceptional performance as Dorothy’s Aunt Em. MacKay’s emotion in the last scene was plausible, and the authenticity in her voice was apparent. Not only was MacKay’s emotion genuine, but also her voice was done spectacularly well, while still articulating and enunciating every word.Bryce Batten fully embodied his role of the Scarecrow. Batten’s commitment to the character was unmistakable, as exemplified through his phenomenal physicality and comical facial expressions. The flimsiness of his entire body brought truth to his character and his performance was commendable. Mary Bagley’s portrayal of the cowardly lion was superb. She did a great job with her characterization of Lion through the use of her movement and emotion, and her stage presence was strong. The guardian of the Emerald Doors, Kaitlyn Hughes, had tremendous comedic timing, and her constant change in emotion, whether she was frightened, fatigued, or authoritative, was executed seamlessly.The costume team did an admirable job of crafting together a variety of well-designed costumes. The Tin Woodman’s costume was carefully fashioned, doubtlessly capturing the iconic essence of the character. Complementing the characters’ costumes, the hair and makeup team did a wonderful job of creating a variety of different makeup looks. Aunt Em and Uncle Henry’s makeup was done with detail, and the intricacy of the fine wrinkles added to their aged look on stage.Exhibiting the parallel between Kansas and Oz, the set team did a remarkable job of creating an all black and white setting, which changed to an abundance of colour as Dorothy found herself in the land of Oz. The use of periaktoi made transitions seamless, and permitted the set team to create multiple scenic backgrounds on each side. The Kansas home was impressive, and the sheer amount of detail that went into it was evident. The use of sound and lighting was done exceptionally well when demonstrating the cyclone heading towards Dorothy’s home. The dimmed lights, moving spotlight, and the eerie sound of the wind emphasized the frantic extent of the situation. Furthermore, the use of green light to mimic the effects of the green-tinted glasses that are worn in the Emerald City articulated the mood of the scene, and was without a doubt an extremely clever stylistic choice.St. Francis Xavier High School’s production of The Wizard of Oz brought the buoyant fantasy to life through outstanding acting and meticulous attention to detail.About the reviews:The production at St. Francis Xavier High School was reviewed by 38 critics representing 11 schools. The critic discussions were mentored by teacher Sue Gonsalves of St. Mother Teresa High School and student reviews were edited and selected for publication by teacher Carli Ranta of St. Mother Teresa High School, who could see only the reviews, not the names or schools of the reviewers.Next review: A.Y. Jackson Secondary School’s production of Months on End.About the Cappies:The Citizen and 26 high schools are participating in the Cappies, a Washington, D.C.-based program that uses high school critics to review high school theatre. The program is a unique partnership between the Citizen, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board and the Ottawa Catholic School Board. Three schools from other boards in the region and two private schools have also joined. The four winners of the lead acting categories will receive a bursary provided by the international law firm Gowling WLG Canada LLP. Follow the Cappies on Twitter @OttawaCappies.