Fulda High to present 'The Wizard of Oz'
FULDA -- Ruby red slippers and yellow brick roads are guaranteed to bring back fond memories, and that's exactly what the Fulda cast of "The Wizard of Oz" is hoping.
Performances of the family favorite will be at 7 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday in the Fulda Elementary School gymnasium, with doors opening 45 minutes in advance. Tickets will be available from Maynards and Ramerth Hardware, cast members and at the door.
Fulda has a long tradition of doing an annual spring community play or musical, but its high school performances have been irregular with the last show in 2004.
Last spring during the community play, Mike Peterson, Fulda High School band and choir director, and Linda Lund, former high school choir director, heard high school students talking about how much they loved performing and how they wished there was a fall musical planned.
So, they took it upon themselves to start organizing a fall musical.
Lund and Peterson are no strangers to Fulda audiences. Both have participated in numerous community plays and have been cast across from one another in many leading roles.
For this production, for which they will be acting co-directors, they wanted a well-known musical that would create excitement and make people smile.
They also were looking for a musical that had been done in the area by other groups.
"We wanted a musical that other people in the area had done so that we could borrow things and make sure we weren't in over our heads as far as costuming and things like that," Peterson said.
Instead of having two directors call the shots, the cast of "The Wizard of Oz" is led by five co-directors: Peterson, Lund, Roxanne Kenney, Heidi Appel and Sherri Isder.
"We try to make sure we don't overlap and repeat things too much for the sake of time," Peterson explained.
"We all have our own areas that we tend to focus on," Appel added.
Isder, who is the accompanist, has played a huge role in getting the musical ready.
"She's been a tremendous help," Peterson said, "She has even rewritten music for the kids. She's is the glue that holds this entire production together."
The directors have found strong support from both the students and the community, as the production is being coordinated on an all-volunteer basis.
To prepare for the production, three set-building days took place with anywhere from 10 to 30 volunteers bringing hammers, saws and paint brushes to create the necessary sets.
The high school arts students were particularly excited to help, as Peterson noted there are no art classes being offered at Fulda High this year.
"The Wizard of Oz" will be performed on the stage in the Fulda Elementary school gym, which measures only 30 feet across. Designing the set to fit those measurements has been a challenge.
"We have a 30-foot stage and putting on a major production on only 30 feet is hard," Peterson said.
To compensate, the directors have had to get creative. They will be using movable, three-sided sets that are new to the Fulda stage. The sets can be moved freely, with each side depicting a different scene. Some sides also have doors that open to create a fourth scene -- or to allow witches pop out from behind trees in the haunted forests.
"You can have great actors, but it's the set that makes the actors even better," said Appel.
Like all productions, there have been challenges. The biggest has been finding time between other activities to rehearse with the students.
"Kids are busy and they aren't only in the play," Peterson said. "We've had to work around with choir, sports, work schedules and other activities."
One of the most unexpected challenges happened at a girls basketball game when the scarecrow, played by Sariah Cheadle, received a concussion.
"She was a bit foggy at first," said Lund, "but it looks like she's doing much better."
All the directors said that working with 30 munchkins ranging in age from kindergarten to fifth grade has been less difficult than anticipated.
"The younger kids have all been really great," Appel said. "They picked up their songs and their dances really fast."
To make sure as many people as possible can enjoy their performances, the cast will be giving a dress rehearsal to an audience of their peers Friday.
"We invited all of the students from Fulda Elementary and St. Paul's and the fifth-graders from Worthington," Appel said.
Some of the cast will also be going to Fulda's Maple Lawn Nursing Home to sing a few songs for the residents.
"Some of those people really want to see the kids perform but aren't able to come to a live performance," Appel said.
Each of the directors has a background in theater. Kenney said her family developed an interest in theater when her daughter, Taylor Kenney, who plays the tin man, stared in national tour of "Dragon Tales" in 2005.
Lund said she does it for the kids. "And because I love theater," she added.
In fact, it seems like love of the stage is the motivation for most of the people participating in the musical.
"I've been in a lot of shows before and have always loved being on stage and performing," said Rachel Cheadle, who will be playing Dorothy.
The musical production is very similar to the well-known 1939 film, noted Peterson, but there are some differences. The stage play runs longer than the film. Lines, songs and parts of songs were cut out of the film for time reasons.
"In the stage play there is a fun little song called 'The Jitterbug' that has been eliminated from the movie due to time constraints," Peterson said.
All of the directors and adult volunteers praised the work that the students have put into to the show.
"The cast has been superb," Peterson said. "They are not only getting their lines well, but they are getting into their characters really well, too. The stage crew has also been phenomenal.
"Come and watch this musical and have a great time doing it," Peterson added. "It's one of the classical American musicals."
Daily Globe Reporter Alyson Buschena may be reached at