Denver North, CO - There were some amazing moments in Legacy High School’s production of The Wizard of Oz, though technical problems almost killed the show before it began. In the opening scene it was clear that something was wrong with Maya Claridge’s (Dorothy Gale) headset microphone. Loud distracting static left the audience wondering why director Karen Stacks didn’t go to black and fix the problem right away. When Claridge’s mic quit working altogether the audience’s enthusiasm took a dive, but Claridge remained professionally composed and delivered a solo performance of Somewhere Over the Rainbow that saved the show. It was the only time the orchestra played quietly as Claridge sang mic-less to a packed 600-seat audience who sat motionless to hear her. And in that silence one could not miss how much Claridge looked and sounded like Judy Garland from the movie. Claridge told Colorado & Company’s Denise Plante that she wanted to play Dorothy reminiscent to Judy Garland’s performance, and that is what she did. Studying Garland for over five months in preparation for the role, Claridge had perfected every expression, mannerism and inflection. Together with Braeden Wilson (Cowardly Lion), Nathan George (Scarecrow) and Jason Neuhalfen (Tin Man), they succeeded in bringing the most iconic movie to life on the stage. Using projection technology as the main backdrop for each scene added to the movie-feel. Little nuances of the trees swaying their arms and the crows eating corn in the background added something sweetly authentic to the overall production and there was no question in anyone’s mind that the Munchkinland scene with 36 children ages 5-12 years old, led by Mayor Nathan Jaschke was a vibrant show-stopper. Where there were weak areas, most of them related to the orchestra either playing off pitch or drowning out the actor’s voices altogether, the authentic performances by the actors coupled with special effects provided enough elements of surprise to keep the audience distracted from the often overbearing music. Elmira Gulch, played by senior Maeve Reilly, who also played the Wicked Witch of the West, riding her bicycle through the audience was a crowd pleaser as were the monkeys on stilts, played by senior Rachel Kane and junior Annie Carpenter. From a flying witch to fire balls the show left nothing to be desired and redefined what a passionate high school program can do. It was another sell-out success for Legacy High School's drama department, who produced the sensational Sweeney Todd last spring, and left people wondering, what will they do to top it next year?
Melanie Winters is an independent journalist and entertainment reviewer located in Denver, Colorado.
Photos courtesy of Legacy High School drama department.