The theatre folks at Ursuline College Chatham pressed the replay button this year, and can’t wait to see the results.
For the first time in the school’s drama history, the UCC Theatre Company is repeating a show it has done in the past. This year, they’re bringing The Wizard of Oz back for shows April 5-8. The company also did it 21 years ago.
“It’s the first duplicate of our repertoire,” director and UCC teacher Jim Dunlop said. “It was a show that some of the adults who are involved this year did as students. I’m one of them,” he said. “The Wizard of Oz was one of the first ones we (the UCC Theatre Company) did. It was a big budget, famous musical.”
The theatre company got its start in 1994, performing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolored Dream Coat. It was followed by Annie a year later.
Dunlop said over the years, the company has put on 20 shows over the past 23 years, with only a few years where there was no show, including last year.
The theatre company targets musicals for several reasons, Dunlop said.
“Half of our shows are geared towards elementary school kids. Musicals are crowd pleasers,” he said.
They also take a lot of people to pull off, increasing student body involvement. Dunlop said there are 30 students on stage for the show, 25 under the stage in the orchestra pit, a like amount back stage and another half dozen in the lighting and audio booth.
“It takes a small army to make this happen,” he said.
Add to that about 20 teachers and adult volunteers, and you have your army.
“The musical provides more opportunities for people to be involved.”
Auditions began back in September. Since late that month, the cast has been rehearsing two or three times a week.
“It’s a bit of a monster,” Dunlop said of the time commitment. But talking with performers quickly leads one to realize, no one minds.
Matt Buis, who is taking part in his first theatre production and gets to play the Scarecrow, is smitten.
“I love it. I love the music and the way everything comes together,” he said. “It’s a team effort.”
Jack Gillis has some familiarity with the stage, but mostly when he was younger and with Theatre Kent shows, enjoys the challenge presented by performing in a musical.
“It takes more effort. I have great appreciation of how the professionals do it,” the actor behind the Cowardly Lion said.
Zach Coristine is a relative stage veteran by UCC standards. He’s performed in Shrek the Musical and the Addams Family – the two most recent shows put on by the theatre company, and now takes on the role of the Tin Man. He looks forward to seeing the fruit of months of labour.
“Every year, you see how all the work and time leads up to the opening night. You get such a sense of satisfaction,” he said. “As we rehearse it and see our hard work paying off, it’s rewarding.”
Gillis doesn’t think of it as work, however.
“It’s fun just to go to practice with these guys,” he said.
The singing element can be the challenge.
“I found my voice driving in the car. I was singing along and my voice squeaked,” Buis said. “I thought, ‘Yeah, I’ll keep that.’”
Dunlop, who played a lot of sports as well during his high school years, sees the theatre company at UCC as the ultimate team effort.
“There’s no greater example of a true team than a theatre production,” he said. “In basketball and football, you can have one really good player and be successful. It’s not the same in theatre. Everyone has an important role to play.”
Event organizers added a matinee performance this year as well. The matinees take place each day from April 3-7, with the additional show going to UCC students. Dunlop said the elementary schools bring kids the other four days, but the group realized it wasn’t giving its own students a matinee opportunity, so they added the performance.
With evening performances set each night from April 5-8, the company will put on a total of nine shows this year.
Tickets are $20 each and available at the UCC box office Monday to Friday from noon to 5:30 p.m., except during March Break.