Chaos, jitterbugs mark rehearsals of Central Junior High's 'Wizard of Oz'

Tuesday, May 6, 2008
FRED LYNCH ~ flynch@semissourian.com Central Junior High cast members of The Wizard of Oz were off to see the wizard in a rehearsal Monday including from left, Sam Gerlach as the scarecrow, Parker Browne as the tin man, Lauren Dumey as Dorothy, Brandon Tanksley as the lion and Chleo LeGrand as Toto.

Mike Dumey is trying to organize 40-plus jitterbugs on stage. With sequins flashing and capes flying, the bugs assemble. "Hurry, hurry," Dumey coaxes.

The music, now rewound, begins again. "Keep away from the jitterbug. Look out!" Dorothy, the tin man, and the lion murmur. The bugs gather, jumping, fingers snapping and legs kicking.

Over 100 other people mill about the auditorium, waiting for their turn. Down the hall, a team of mothers and volunteers work furiously on last-minute touches to costumes. Since February they have sewn close to 450 outfits.

With opening night of Central Junior High's "The Wizard of Oz" on Thursday, practice has been kicked into high gear. Each year the musical seems to become bigger and bigger, and this year is no exception, parents say.

"Welcome to unbridled chaos," director Dumey said Monday during a full dress rehearsal.

The musical is chock-full of surprises, including the jitterbug dance, a Broadway-style dance that was left out of the movie but added to the play, Dumey said. Lips are sealed about special effects, but one revealed is how the witch will literally descend into the ground —through a special trap door. There's also the hint of the use of fire.

"I'm not going to give anything away, but there's stuff Mr. Dumey would never have done seven or eight years ago," said Becky Schneider, who plays Glenda.

Her mother, Andrea, has been working on costumes every day after work from 4 to 11 p.m. for the past two months. For her daughter's costume, she purchased a wedding dress and then altered it to add glitter, sequins and sleeves. For most of the other costumes, she purchased fabric for a dollar a yard from Wal-Mart. Some items have been reused from the school's last production of "The Wizard of Oz" in 1996.

Schneider has had the help of Tammy Monia and Pat Renard, the costume director, among others. The junior high musical has become so ingrained as a tradition in the community that people who don't have children volunteer to help.

The principal cast has been practicing every day after school until at least 6 p.m., and this past weekend they worked from noon to 9 p.m. Saturday and from 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday. The production, at least in terms of scale, is arguably bigger than the high school's.

"The high school has lots of people, but nothing like this. Here everybody gets a chance to do something," said Caroline Harding, a student director. This year's musical involves about 180 students. Some students play multiple roles.

Junior high students had to share the auditorium for rehearsal time with Central High School for its production of "Grease," occasionally having to practice in hallways or in the entryway of the school.

"People know they won't have an opportunity like this again. They want to be part of something big and great," said Kaci Howard, another student director.

Dumey's daughter, eighth-grader Lauren Dumey, plays Dorothy. "I thought it would be hard to work with my dad. But he's been good, and I've been good," she said.

After long hours, plenty of Pop's Pizza and games like trying to incorporate script lines into everyday conversations, the members have become somewhat of a family, said Sam Gerlach, who plays the Scarecrow.

"They're all part of something a lot bigger than themselves," Andrea Schneider said.

lbavolek@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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