Nothing Short of Magical
Sayville Middle School Music Department’s presentation of The WIZ was nothing short of magical, from the fanciful costumes, high-tech special effects, entertaining acting, and especially to the amazing voices. Launched in 1974, The WIZ was the familiar story of Dorothy’s trip to Oz, retold with soul, along with new music and story adaptations. Forty years later, after numerous national tours and Broadway revivals, its legacy remains in such popular songs as Ease On Down the Road, Believe in Yourself, Y’All Got It, and Soon as I Get Home.
Upholding Sayville Middle School’s exceptional reputation for remarkable Musical productions, The WIZ was a crowd-pleaser. The costumes alone appealed to every Wizard of Oz fan, but the wizardry behind the animated sequences—especially when inserts of the actual performers became part of the animation, i.e., Eighth-grader Alex Pittari as the Wizard appears to sail off in the hot air balloon, and the good witches, Kaitlyn Maher and Allison Lynn, also are seen waving gracefully as they float away in a magical bubble—immensely impressed audiences of all ages. (“How did they do that?” A youngster whispered out loud in awe one night, echoing the quieter thoughts of nearby adults. Credit goes to High School Junior and animator Sean McNally who used video-game-maker software for the effect.)
While live theatre often has challenging moments that might seem like cyclones descending on Kansas cornfields, the cast and crew weathered through such unexpected twists (microphone woes, digital glitches, and a sick lead performer) with professionalism and talent, pulling off an ovation-worthy production every night.
There are so many to congratulate for creating memorable magic, beginning with the following performers:
Cast as Dorothy, Samantha LoGrippo was stellar, always in perfect character as the spunky, determined Dorothy who was whisked away to the wondrous world of OZ on an adventure of a lifetime. Similarly, Sam’s beautiful voice, as powerful as the gale force winds, transported audiences to believe Dorothy “would be alright’ even before she could “get home.”
The stumbling Scarecrow in search of a brain was as adorable as ever thanks to Jonathan Nolan’s high-energy witticisms, comic timing, and physicality that imbued life into the bumbling bag of straw who learns to think on his feet.
Evan Powers, the upended trash barrel of a Tin Man, gave a cast iron performance as the re-formed woodsman who, even without a heart, protects and defends his companions with his emotional intensity. (A ‘show-must-go-on moment’ occurred on Friday night when back stage Evan was abruptly incapacitated by a sudden stomach virus right before his entrance. Resourceful directors, cast, and crew found the quickest solution: ensemble member Cameryn Surdi bravely filled the Tin Man’s shoes [actually his cap] and pantomimed the part, while off stage, Rowen Mahoney provided the voiceover from the script. The audience had no problem adjusting to the substitution and demonstrated their appreciation with hearty applause for Cameryn during curtain call.) Fortunately, Evan was a real trooper and reprised his role flawlessly as Tin Man on Saturday.
Show-stealing Cowardly Lion was every bit the center of attention with Shaun Gibbons embracing the role with gusto, musicality, and showmanship that made him a lively, hilarious, and memorable presence –fun to watch in every scene.
Witches Addaperle (Kaitlyn Maher), Evillene (Christina LaFroscia) and Glinda (Allison Lynn) may have made brief appearances in character, but the young ladies played their small parts in a big way. While kooky Addaperle was less adept at magic, Kaitlyn was not short of talent in both acting and singing He’s the Wiz, especially with munchkin back-up. Making a frightening onstage presence—Evillene’s make up was masterfully horrifying—yet, Christina showed no stage fright with her wickedly diabolical acting, encantations of “eleka nahmen namen...” (borrowed from Wicked), and singing as the most feared witch in all of Oz. Bubbly Glinda in all her finery, played by the sparkling Allison, was beautiful to behold and hear, her lilting voice clear and resonating in Believe in Yourself.
The Great Wizard, solidly played by Alex Pittari, was unbeatable as the ordinary man from Nebraska and revered master prestidigitator in Oz.
Appearances by Aunt Em (Gabby Medeck) Uncle Henry/Lord High Underling (Alex Maksimiak), Messenger (Matthew Zender), Gatekeeper (Adele Micelli), Toto (Cooper McNally) along with the Munchkins, Mice from the Mice Squad, Tornadoes, Crows, Yellow Brick Road, Poppies, Kalidahs, Trees, and ensemble cast filled the mystical world that would finally fade like a dream once Dorothy clicked her silver slippers three times.
As all of Oz retreated somewhere over a rainbow, Sam LoGrippo’s Dorothy finished with a powerful reprise of Home that was so satisfying, audiences sighed, feeling the joy of reunion for all matters of home and hearth, along with heartfelt hugs for Toto, too.
There was no great sorcery involved in producing Sayville’s Middle School musical; it was just the hard work and dedication of an amazing crew behind the scenes. Thanks go to Director Jeff Hoffman, Musical Director Fred Diekmann, Producer Kerri Van Boxel, Sound: Andrew Giammalvo, Set Construction: Ken Van Essendelft, Lighting: Steve Hailey, Special Effects: Sean McNally, Artwork: Cora Sparwasser, Pit Orchestra: (bass) Frank Hanso, (guitar) Joe LoSchiavo, (keyboard 1) Fred Diekmann, (keyboard 2) Anthony Vetere, and (Percussion) Mike LaVolpe.
In addition, congratulations to all the Production staff…. [see Program information below.]
Also, special mention for names not listed in the program. The pit singers were: Dea Ahlgrim, Jaime Baio, Kate Donahue, Eileen Monahan, Sean Velazques and Amanda Wessels. Phenomenal make-up by Steve and Donna Hailey.
FOR MANY MORE PHOTOS OF THE PERFORMANCES, CLICK ON THE SUBFOLDERS AT LEFT IN NAVIGATION BAR ENTITLED "Wednesday Rehearsal Photos," "Friday Performance" and "Saturday Peformance."