Pupils prepare to `ease on down the road' in `The Wiz'


March 27, 2001|By Nancy Gallant | Nancy Gallant,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

EIGHTY PUPILS at Crofton Middle School are joining in a lively production of the musical "The Wiz," a Motown-spiced version of "The Wizard of Oz."

Six performances are scheduled for this weekend and next -- the culmination of many months of work by the pupils, directors and parent volunteers to make this production sing.

Preparations began in the fall when Bobbi Smith, who had overseen two earlier musicals at the school, chose "The Wiz" for this year's production.

After auditions in December, work began in earnest. The pupils had to learn their music, study their lines and practice the complicated choreography that transforms a middle school auditorium into the magical land of Oz.

Smith died of pancreatic cancer in January. Her sister, Vicki Smith, and her daughter, Lea Capps, agreed to take over direction of the show. Since then, they have supervised the rehearsals, the staging and the organization needed to bring a show to the stage.

The rehearsals have been full of life as munchkins and monkeys, witches and monsters parade through the auditorium and dance across the stage.

Sixth-grader Adrienne Gabriel appears in the roles of a crow and a monkey. She auditioned by singing for Bobbi Smith in December.

Jessica Schrader, a petite and somewhat shy sixth-grader, plays a Kaliahda, an evil monster that attacks people. How does she change from shy girl to raging monster? Jessica says that when she puts on her black costume, she can put the cape in front of her face and put herself into the spirit of her character.

Ross Koenig agrees. He is an amiable boy with a ready laugh. But his role is the wicked witch Evilene, a truly dastardly character. Ross says that once he puts on his costume and gets on the stage, he gets into Evilene's character and can let loose with evil laughter.

But there is more to a show than the characters seen on the stage. Dozens of parents have been busy for months searching for props, sewing costumes, helping with practices and making hundreds of arrangements.

Pupils have also been involved in nonacting ways. Eighth-graders Drew Novotny and Travis Cruz describe their stage crew work as varied. They are responsible for keeping the kids quiet backstage, for moving props and making sure that people get everything they need to make the show work.

Performances are scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 6:30 p.m. Sunday; 7 p.m. April 5 and 6; and 2 p.m. April 7.

Tickets are $4 for students and $6 for adults. Tickets can be purchased at the door or may be ordered by calling Mel Talson, 410-721-5289.

School groundbreaking

Cardinal William H. Keeler, archbishop of Baltimore, will join pupils, faculty and supporters of the Catholic School of the Incarnation for its groundbreaking ceremony at 3 p.m. Sunday at the school's new site on Waugh Chapel Road in Gambrills.

Donna DeGrange, administrative assistant at the school, is obtaining 100 little shovels -- one for each child in this year's kindergarten class and for each child who will be entering kindergarten in the fall.

The children have been talking about the new school and are excited to be part of the process of beginning construction.

Principal Barbara Edmondson asked the kindergartners to draw pictures of the groundbreaking ceremony. Some drew a school building, some drew pictures of construction work. One picture showed a backhoe and men in hard hats -- that image adorns the T-shirts that the children will wear at Sunday's ceremony.

Everyone interested in the new school is invited to attend the ceremony. Since space is limited at the site, people are asked to park their cars at Four Seasons Elementary School. Information: 410-729-7820.

Lenten mission at St. Joseph

The Rev. Daniel Francis, a Redemptorist priest, will be leading the parish Lenten mission at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Odenton next week.

He is a familiar face at St. Joseph, where many parishioners still know him as Danny. It was his home parish while growing up, and several relatives live in the area.

Francis lives in New York and travels throughout the country, preaching at retreats and missions, which consist of a series of spiritual talks and prayers. The theme of the mission at St. Joseph, from Sunday through April 5, is "Finding Your Way."

Mission services will begin at 7:30 each evening.

Information: 410-551-9238.

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