Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s presents: The Wizard of Oz

Story, photos by Fritz Busch

Last month marked the 75th anniversary of the release of the movie “The Wizard of Oz”. Although the most watched movie of all time was released and distributed with a hefty price tag, it did not strike gold at the box office having to compete with the blockbuster, “Gone With the Wind”.

Only later did this charming story of Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tinman, Lion, the Wicked Witch, Glinda and the munchkins clicked with audiences of all ages around the world. It placed the famous ruby slippers in the archives of the Smithsonian Institute and the line, “There’s no place like home” on the lips of every school child.

St. Mary’s High School first staged “The Wizard of Oz” in 1996, when the film version was not yet available in script and therefore we had three witches, a revolving bridge, no monkeys and no winkies.

This year the school brings the original movie version to our stage with only one witch, Karlie Heiderscheidt, monkeys, winkies, jitterbugs, talking trees and crows, along with Dorothy, Bethany Berkner, Scarecrow, Mike Hirsch, Tinman, Jordan Anderson, Lion, Nick DeMaris and Glinda, Molly Lax.

The cast of 50 students is enhanced by the additional appearance of Uncle Henry, Aunt Em, Professor Marvel, munchkins, lyrical dancers, Oz, himself and the citizens of Oz.

High school play director Julie Neubauer said students worked hard on the production since Christmas break, learning their choreography, blocking, lines and helping with set construction and painting.

“This production calls for some technical endeavors…so I called on my own wizards – Ron Berdan and Mark Sabatino – to help me create the Oz effects and a few surprises,” Neubauer said.

She thanked her core committee of Gary Sassenberg, Rachel Moldan, Chris Heiderschiedt and student directors Molly Lax and RaeAnna Zinniel, plus many community members and parents.

Student Director Molly Lax, a senior, plays Glinda the Good Witch and Aunt Em. It’s her fourth play at St. Mary’s.

“It’s a classic story a lot of people know, my favorite,” she said. “We began our three-hour daily rehearsals last Monday.”

Lax plans on becoming an English teacher, studying at the College of St. Benedict or the University of South Dakota.

Karlie Heiderscheidt plays the Wicked Witch.

“I like being the witch. It gives me an excuse to be mean. The play is fun to watch,” Heiderscheidt said. She plans on studying Early Childhood Development and Elementary Education at Southwest State University at Marshall.

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