When choosing the fall musical for the current school year, the theater students at Thomas Dale High School’s Specialty Center for the Arts expressed their desire to see more diversity on stage. As a result, the drama instructors went with “The Wiz,” an urban reimagining of L. Frank Baum’s 1900 children’s novel, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” and a musical they had done once before in the 80s.the scarecrow is played by Kyler Roundtree. He is hung over posts to keep the crows away in a corn field, but is having no luck.
“We always kind of consider all of our students when we’re doing plays and we had some strong cases made by students who wanted to see more diversity on stage,” Sarah Roquemore, theater teacher at Thomas Dale said, “and so in choosing “The Wiz,” we knew that we’d get students [who] weren’t already involved in our theatre program to be involved.”
Roquemore said she wanted to bridge the gap between the multicultural students at the high school with the universal theme of home that is explored in the musical.
“The story is about home, and home is something that means something to all people, so we wan to invite people home when they come see the show,” Roquemore said. “That’s a big thing in our theater program: [the students and I value] that this program, and the Center for the Arts at Thomas Dale in general, is a [creative] home for students so that’s something that we really wanted to explore with the show.”
“The Wiz” made its Broadway debut in 1975, and a film adaptation featuring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson, was released in 1978. A live television production, aired on NBC last December, “The Wiz Live!,” and that was also part of the reason for it being chosen.
“Every time you pick a big musical, you want to have name recognition, and a priority for us in the past couple of years has been having a show that people can bring their whole family to,” Roquemore said. “The Wiz … [had] some name recognition after it was on NBC … last year, so that certainly had something to do with us picking it but … also the music for the show is just so fun to perform.”
Roquemore said the musical has led to a lot of interest, and even though auditions have always been open to the school, more students have gotten involved with this show: the band kept adding students to the pit because the music was fun to perform; and athletes, cheerleaders, and visual arts students are in the ensemble cast and have done set and poster design.
“Auditions have always been open to the entire school, but to have more kids show up and more kids get involved in the show has been really exciting,” Roquemore said. “[The goal is] to develop this show, continue to build our program, and … choose shows that are exciting and diverse and engage all of our students.”
“The Wiz” has a mixture of old and new cast – Brayden Paitsel and Corey Norman were in Shrek last year and are playing The Wiz and Tin Man respectively; Jasmine Hawkins and Kyra Trice are new to the program and will be playing Lion and Dorothy; and Kambria Cook was Puck in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and will be playing Eveline – and Roquemore said she is excited for the cast to showcase their talent.
“We’ve got incredibly talented kids in these roles … [and] I’m thrilled [for] these students to show Thomas Dale … what they can do. It’s just a fun show, so I’m really excited,” Roquemore said.
“The Wiz” opens Nov. 17 and runs through the Nov. 20 at Thomas Dale High School.