BRATTLEBORO — How do you make a scarecrow catch on fire, or a tornado move a house on stage or at least appear as if they do? For Hallie Flower, new Executive Director at New England Youth Theater, answers to these and other questions were the challenges she faced head on while directing NEYT's holiday production of "The Wizard of Oz." The result is what she called stage magic. Based upon the MGM's classic motion picture, Flower had to devise clever ways to dramatize iconic scenes from the movie on the intimate stage at NEYT. One of the easier depictions is when Dorothy interacts with Uncle Henry and the farm hands by fixing a wagon instead of feeding pigs. (Just imagine the chaos of pigs on stage!) But how does Flower make the witch melt or Toto follow the trio along the yellow brick road? Well, you'll just have to come see it to find out for yourself!
With the help of Assistant Director Doran Hamm, Student Assistant Director Eliza Price, and a total of 42 youth actors from ages 9 to 19 bring Flower's vision is brought to life. Flower was quick to point out that though they kept the play true to the text, each actor made their character their own. The resulting performance by this cast, many of whom are already seasoned actors (Bonnie West who plays Glinda the Good Witch has an astonishing 21 plays under her belt) is what Flower gushed is a bright, beautiful, lush show.
Flower has began her position as the Executive Director at NEYT last October, but she is a familiar face in the local theater community as co-founder of Apron Theater Co. She said taking this position at NEYT has been a dream job. She added, "The best part of doing this production is working with the kids, It had been a long time since I worked with kids. They are committed and haven't lost their sense of fun."
The fun is apparent in favorite beloved songs from the movie that are brought to the stage with lots of lovely ensembles under the musical direction of Becky Graber, choreographed by Alisa Hauser, and the orchestra conductor Deniz Cordell.
David Stern does his usual magic as set designer, and head costumer is Monika Grist-Weiner, an NEYT Alumni, had her work cut out for her for a cast of 42 with an average of five costumes each, but she also had plenty of help. Volunteers from ages nine to 70 brought their time and love to make this happen, making costumes, bringing hot meals during rehearsals, helping back stage with costume changes and keeping the cast hydrated. Flower was amazed that there is so much support from families friends staff and businesses.
Oz is not only the first play Flower has directed under her new title, but it is the first time she has worked with her daughter, Aidan Flower Desjardin who has the leading role of Dorothy. You may remember her as Hope in NEYT's production of "Urinetown" last August. Also in leading roles are Aiden Meyer as The Lion, Malcom Toleno as The Tin Man and Liam Johnson as The Scarecrow.
"The Wizard of Oz" is a two hour show and performances are Thursdays and Fridays, Dec. 3, 4, 10 and 11, at 7 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays, Dec. 5, 6, 12 and 13, at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $13 for students and seniors, and are available online at neyt.org or call 802-246-6398, or stop in at NEYT at 100 Flat St., Brattleboro.
Originally adapted John Kane for the Royal Shakespeare Company, based upon the Classic Motion Picture owned by Turner Entertainment Co. and distributed in all media by Warner Bros., it is sponsored by Berkley & Veller Greenwood Country Realtors, Sam's Outdoor Outfitters, The Winston Prouty Center and Integrated Solar.
Under the direction of Flower, the foursome takes the audience on a journey along the yellow brick road in their quest to get back home. For Flower, directing the Oz, "brings out the little girl in me, it was THE show when I was a little kid. It brings out the child in all of us."