Everyone for the past three generations has indelible images and memories of the Wizard of Oz, planted by the classic MGM movie. But all audience expectations and preconceptions were swept away the instant senior Cole Lumpkin, in contemporary dress and matter-of-fact style, began reading from Frank L. Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in York Prep’s production of a play by the same name at the Marjorie Deane Little Theater on January 26. The narration—which admitted that this, a stage production, could not have the same effect as the descriptive pages of a book or the special effects of a movie—drew the audience into a unique and delightful retelling of one of America’s favorite stories, as adapted by playwright V. Glasgow Koste.
All of the requisite characters were there: Gayla Kornbluh’s genuinely heartfelt Dorothy; Jordan Isaac’s Good Witch of the North, who utterly enjoyed her magic powers; Emma Benton’s enthusiastically optimistic Scarecrow; Hailey Corrall’s persistently sentimental Tin Man; Isabel Greenberg’s endearingly nerve-wracked Cowardly Lion; and, of course, Molly Model’s delectably wicked (and green) Wicked Witch of the West.
Toto, too? Toto, too—in a loyal and furry characterization by 6th grader Aaron Pahwa which thoroughly delighted theatergoers. Aaron confessed offstage that he felt “nervous” in performance because the audience’s laughter “makes you want to laugh, too, but you can’t; you have to stay in character.”
It was clear that every actor onstage—and every stagehand offstage—took his or her job just as seriously. Drama Director Maria Getz did a masterful job of orchestrating the youthful company and making their experience meaningful. The massive ensemble of Munchkins acquitted itself with gusto and precision. Every move, every line of dialogue, every bit part counted, and the pace never flagged.
“I was able to connect to Dorothy in a way I would never have thought of,” said Gayla. The character rang truest for her at the moment in the play when Dorothy “realized, instead of dreaming of flying over the rainbow, that she was happy to be at the home she always had.” She is, of course, helped back home by a genteel Good Witch of the South played by Sarah Calaman and by an idiosyncratic Oz played by… Cole Lumpkin!
When asked whether the project was a lot of fun or just a lot of work, Aaron Pahwa probably spoke for the entire troupe when he said, “All of the above.”