The Emerald City at RJR


Photo provided by Annie Fulk

The Wizard of Oz coming to life on stage

Ava Stripling, Staff Writer

RJ Reynolds has always excelled in the arts; it’s what makes RJR so special. Our auditorium has held an abundance of performances in the past 100 years. People from all over the county with many different talents come to RJR just for the arts program. This year, the beloved 1930’s children’s movie has followed the yellow brick road to RJR. 

Mars Morton as Glenda the Good Witch

The performance was a little different than others in the past. The Wizard of Oz included a live dog named Teeka to play the character Toto and kindergarten through eighth graders to play munchkins. The cast enjoyed rehearsing with the dog and performing on stage with her. Seeing Teeka on stage was something new and exciting that all of RJR could experience.

“I love Teeka so much; she’s such a chill dog which definitely made it easier to work with,” senior Quinlyn Kinser, who played the Wicked Witch, said. “She’s very cute, and everybody loves her, and she’s very friendly. It was hard to yell at her every day and see her little face staring back at me.” 

While having a dog during rehearsal could make the work more fun, countless hours were put into the performance of The Wizard of Oz. Over 100 students helped put the musical onto the stage. Rehearsals started in January, and the cast practiced at least 1 to 2 hours every day after school to make the show as amazing as it was.

 “Rehearsal was really exhausting at first; it really wasn’t fun,” junior Davis Churn, who played the Guard of Oz, said. “But then, as we started to get more serious and as things started to develop, especially when we got into tech week, and we could really see all of our hard work paying off, I loved coming to rehearsal, and I loved seeing it all come together,” 

While the cast worked for months on the show, they also built friendships along the way and had fun times backstage joking around with each other. 

“One time I was performing during a rehearsal, and I didn’t have enough time to quickly change back into my other character Hickory, and I went on stage without my shoes,” freshman Sebastian Ariza, who played the Tin Man, said.

Not only were the actors themselves remarkable, but the set and choreography were unlike any RJR show before. This show included dancers to bring the show to life. The tornado was shown by dancers spinning around the stage with objects, the flying monkeys dancing across the stage, and the jitterbugs twisting and turning with the characters. 

“Merry Old Land of Oz is really cool to watch, and Jitterbug too,” Kinser said. “Jitterbug has all of these really talented dancers that just killed it on stage.”

Other cast members agree with Kinser; the choreography is what really brings the show to life. 

“If I had to say my favorite scene, I would have to say Merry Old Land of Oz,” Churn said. “I just think it’s so fun and so fun to watch. I love the choreo, and I just think it’s such a vibrant scene.” 

Photo provided by Annie Fulk

While the cast, crew, and set make the show, the audience is also a considerable factor. Audience interaction gives the cast energy and is one of the main reasons people perform.

“Something my director told me is that the audience plays a character itself,” Ariza said. “It’s just really nice for them to react to the things we do.”

“I like when we get unintentional reactions like we know certain parts are supposed to be funny, but when something’s not intentionally funny and the audience finds certain things good or funny and we don’t expect it, I love that.” senior Caleb Willaims, who played the scarecrow, said.

The Wizard of Oz was a fun performance for everyone, not just the students in the show but also the audience. The cast performed seven back-to-back shows, and each time was equally impressive. 

The set was so creative, especially since the movie is already so brightly colored. The crew did an outstanding job bringing the film to life with a modern twist. The incorporation of personifying things like the tornado with dance was something that had never been done before. Using younger children as munchkins made the show not just a high school show but a community performance.