Perryville HS premieres ‘The Wizard of Oz’
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PERRYVILLE — Over the weekend, Perryville High School brought Cecil County a taste of the magic that lies “somewhere over the rainbow,” that can exist even in the midst of a pandemic with “The Wizard of Oz,” a film the department produced when live theater became impossible.
“We worked so hard during such a hard time,” Cameron Malone, who played the Cowardly Lion, said. “We went from the first day of filming to having to wear masks until the last day of filming when our mask mandates were lifted.”
The cast even dressed for the occasion, most donning prom outfits for the Thursday premier as they walked down the “yellow carpet” before an applauding audience at the Perryville High School Auditorium.
The film began with a personal touch from Perryville, with Malone replacing the MGM lion to start the film. Perryville even replicated the classic transition from the black and white monotony of Kansas to the color ful world of Oz. The whimsical special effects included easter eggs, such as a face mask and a COVID vaccine flying alongside Dorothy’s house up the tornado to Oz.
“This year, when we came back to school, I wanted to make sure that we had some way shape or form to have these kids perform,” director Jill Welsheimer said. “And to give them a beautiful live theatre. Unfortunately, the live part didn’t happen.”
The school began filming in April, transforming areas like the playground of Bainbridge Elementary School into the Munchkin Land.
For many in the cast, the film offered a unique opportunity to watch their performance as an audience member would, something that is impossible in live theatre.
“I don’t know what to expect and that may be a good thing,” Kaleigh Perez, who played Dorothy, said. “It’s always weird to see yourself on stage.”
The laughter of the cast and audience throughout the film showed the joy and whimsy of the production.
“We really enjoyed just seeing each other, because we worked very hard to get where we are,” Grace Jones, who played the Wicked Witch, said.
Malone said the hardest part of the film was trying to memorize the lines of the film while simultaneously keeping up with school work.
Connor Finney, who played the Scarecrow, also helped with some of the behind-the-scenes work during production on days he didn’t film. He said not having the feedback from a live audience and the lack of knowledge of how the final product looks compared to theater made it a new experience. Finney said his favorite part of the film were the musical numbers like the classic “If I Only Had a Brain.”
“I just wanted it to be the best it possibly could,” Finney said. “Everyone worked equally hard, so the little extra effort that I could put in to make it a better production, I thought was definitely worth it.”
Abigail Murrell, who played Glinda the Good Witch, said watching her performance on film created a new perspective compared to theatre when everything is done in the moment.
“It’s a good way to show, during these difficult times, what you can do if you put a little bit of effort and a little bit of hard work and get together a group of people who are really passionate about it,” Murrell said.
Editor Kevin Forman worked countless hours to try and perfect the special effects. Forman said one scene featuring Jones tap dancing required him to go frame by frame and edit out every single step.
“Some of these five minute scenes took me three days to do,” Forman said.
The production also featured hand drawn sets by set designer Sharon Stine.
Ticket proceeds from the film will support the Theater department for future live performances in the upcoming spring. Readers interested in a link to purchase and watch the film can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“It just made me feel proud to sit there and watch this happen, when I was so sad when it couldn’t happen before,” Welsheimer said.