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'Wonderful Wizard of Oz' to come alive at Morris HS

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Hannah Mueller portrays Glinda the Good Witch of the South in the upcoming "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" play at Morris Community High School Oct. 20 to Oct. 22.[]

The adaptation of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” will come alive on stage at Morris Community High School Oct. 20 through 22, under direction of Andrea Gustafson.

Over 100 children are involved in the V. Glasgow Koste play to which Gustafson has added modern twists and fun surprises. The play does not follow the same story line as the movie, but was adapted from the book series written by L. Frank Baum.

“There will be moments in the play, like the movie, which most people will know, and moments from the book that people may not know,” Gustafson said. “One big difference is that in the book, it’s not all a dream, but real, and the slippers are silver in the book. I hope it makes people want to read the book as well.”

The first book in the line of Baum’s books is “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” so all of the scenes in the play will take place from that book. Gustafson said she read scripts beginning in the spring of 2017 and decided to do this play this summer, with auditions held the first week of school in August.

She said this play made a good fit for the students because the underlying theme was to not pass judgment and to be open-minded and that roots are important.

“We all know the story of a girl growing up at a young age who is smart, clever and brave on her own. She meets people she is initially afraid of, but then turn out to be friends. I think this is a lesson we can all apply to life, if we make judgment on people based on appearance or where they are from, we could miss out on knowing someone or a friendship,” Gustafson said. “Also, Dorothy wants to get out, which is important, but being home is important too.”

Gustafson said the play also offers the beloved good versus evil theme where audiences love to see good prevail over the evil.

Fifty high school student parts, 15 kindergarten through third-grade parts and 32 crew members make up the cast and crew of the play. Gustafson said when she looked for a play; she wanted to offer a chance for many students to be involved.

“I stretched this play to give more kids the opportunity to be in the show. It’s important to give kids the opportunity to be in the arts and be creative. If we aren’t able to offer a large cast, typically younger students don’t have to opportunity to be on stage and learn from the older kids,” Gustafson said.

The main characters in the play will be Rylie Linn as Dorothy, Maggie Dudley as the Scarecrow, Blake Niewinski as the Tin Woodman and Aydin Hefford as the Cowardly Lion.

Gustafson holds practice each day after school for two to three hours and closer to the play, practices will extend to weekends. On Columbus Day, students worked almost all day during a tech rehearsal.

The 80 costumes needed for the play were rented by the Coal City High School theater department and store All Dressed Up store in Batavia. Extras needed were made by Gustafson, parents and fashion design teacher Zan Higgins.

Coal City High School offered set pieces to MCHS and some were built by tech director Jen Bamonte.

The play runs Oct. 20 and 21 with a 7 p.m. start time and Oct. 22, the final show will begin at 2 p.m. at MCHS. Tickets are $5 a piece and can be bought at the school by calling 815-942-1294 or online by visiting morrishs.org and click on MCHS Happenings and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.