Hopatcong Drama Club did it again— presenting a sensational and captivating musical adaption of the beloved classic Wizard Of Oz during a 4-day April production Not only was the audience impressed by the special effects, wardrobe and orchestra, but the casting, as well. In each remarkable scene, whether it be Dorothy (Keely Johnston), the Wicked Witch of the West (MaryBeth Marchena) or the great Oz himself (Chase Wolff), the devotion to the parts showed and reflected on the audience. Along with the rest of the crew who worked hard on props, makeup, lighting and much more, the company kept the audience intrigued and helped them feel as if they were really in Oz.
As this year’s production opened, director Joe Ross dedicated all four performances to a beloved and missed former Hopatcong drama club member; Gregory Pellinger. Gregory’s performances here throughout the years were truly memorable. Greg’s memory and spirit came forth as the HHS cast and crew shined.
L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz tells the charming story of Kansas farm girl, Dorothy, and her dog Toto who are blown away in a tornado and end up in a land named Oz. Here she meets three very unusual characters – Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Cowardly Lion; together they go on a quest to see the Wizard of Oz, each of them seeking what they want most in life. They make their way along the Yellow Brick Road through a series of problems. Arriving at the Emerald City, they are told by the Wizard that they first must kill the Wicked Witch of the West before he will grant their wishes. Eventually they overcome challenges and get rid of the witch (although by accident), and return only to find Oz grants everyone’s wish but Dorothy’s, which is to return home to Kansas. In the musical version, Dorothy must turn to the wizard who suggests a ride home in his rocket ship.
Under the direction of Joe Ross along with co-director Chris Ross, music director Barbara Fersch, band director Kurt Zimmermann, and stage coordinator Michael Batche, the play moved forward with utmost precision. The cast and crew went above and beyond in every aspect of the play this year. The wardrobe, makeup and special effects were incredibly detailed. The Tin Man’s (Devon O’Donnell) costume was so vivid and realistic looking that one would think he was actually made of tin. The Good Witch’s (Elizabeth Lavery) dress sparkled under the lights, taking everyone’s breath away. The make-up on The Cowardly Lion (Ryan Taesler) was overpowering and genuine. The Scarecrow’s (Michael Umholtz] costume seemed to mimic his agile and spot-on movements. Even the special effects— when Oz’s face showed up on stage—were something beyond imagination.
The singing, dancing and orchestra showed how truly talented HHS students are. Dorothy’s (Keely Johnston) voice was incredible; when she sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” the crowd sang along with her. Jitterbugs and ghost dancers (Alexis Mott and Cassidy Sandry) filled the stage with exquisite dance moves and techniques making it all the more enjoyable to watch. Zimmermann led the orchestra to many loud, long applauses. One could only be impressed with how well-played each performed song was.
Not only were high school students involved in this year’s spring musical, but 8 middle school students joined in as munchkins. Even Mr. Batche’s adorable granddaughter (Lilly Batche) joined the crew. Mrs. Munchkin (Kelly Nee), Baby Munchkin (Lilly Batche) and Sneezing Munchkin (Caitlyn Peterson) brought much laughter to the crowd and helped create what was the most colorful scene. Every middle school cast member did well— promising a definite future here at Hopatcong.
On a sad note, many seniors experienced their last high school performance with Oz. For the last four years these seniors helped create amazing plays and musicals. The seniors who ended their high school drama career on an Oz note include Joseph Bird, Stephanie Coulman, Rebecca Falconer, Amber Fendrock, Keely Johnston, Tim Lavery, MaryBeth Marchena, Jess Madar, Amanda and Megan Merolle, Alexis Mott, Angela Mower, Kara and Megan Raff, Cassidy Sandry, Francesca Stewart, Chase Wolff and of course (in memory) Gregory Pellinger. Their performances and hard work here will never be forgotten.