Whistler Secondary School takes on The Wizard of Oz

Students celebrate the 75th anniversary of the beloved film

This year's Whistler Secondary School production, The Wizard of Oz, was something of a community effort.

Costumes for the tin man and lion were borrowed from local artist Chili Thom, Jeannette Bruce, a local theatre enthusiast, helped coach singing and various businesses around town donated building supplies, paint and props. "We have all sorts of people from the community that like to support the high school and the kids," said theatre teacher Sandra Droulis, who's directing the play. "People are really eager to help out."

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The costumes have been especially detailed this year. True to the film version - which is celebrating its 75th anniversary - the play will begin in black and white and suddenly bursts into colour when Dorothy (played by Chantal Deane) enters munchkin land. "We actually have a black and white version and a colour version of Dorothy's dress," Droulis said. "I wanted to honour the movie as the first feature full-length colour movie."

To that end, the play is also full of songs that everyone will recognize, including the iconic "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Casting someone brave enough to take on that solo as Dorothy was tricky, Droulis said.

"We had a really big turnout when we had our auditions in October. There were lots of kids, though not many tried out for Dorothy because of that solo Chantal was an obvious choice because she's a strong singer. She also looks a little bit like Dorothy," she added.

Chantal acted in the school's annual plays - for which students receive credit - for the last two years but, for the first time, her twin sister, Cassidy also decided to audition. She was cast as Chantal's foil in the role of the wicked witch. "I didn't know she was going to try out, but she was great in that role," Droulis said. "After the auditions, my student assistant and I talked about it and said, 'Yeah, this would be perfect.' It wasn't expected, but she's great."

In total, 51 students make up the production - a large number, especially considering that there are only about 400 kids who attend the school. "I would say the choice (of The Wizard of Oz) went over well because we managed to get a huge group involved," Droulis said. "Students need to audition for the main roles, but we have lots that sign up for the chorus."

The crew ramped up rehearsals last week in preparation for opening night on March 6 at Millennium Place. The production runs through March 8, with stops at Myrtle Philip and Spring Creek Community Schools for matinees.

"I like the idea of them performing for kids and doing something more community based," Droulis said. "When we do our evening show it's a lot of parents and friends and kids from the high school coming to watch, but I think the matinee is great for them to get experience doing something for younger kids in the community."

Tickets for the show, which starts at 7 p.m., are $12 at the box office or at artswhistler.com.

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