The Yellow Brick Road leads to Gowanda Middle School

Pictured are members of the cast for Gowanda’s rendition of “The Wizard of Oz.” The show will take place next week on March 20 and 21 at 7 p.m. Admission is $5 and tickets will be sold at the door.

GOWANDA — A timeless classic, “The Wizard of Oz” is a beloved fantasy known to generations the world over. This month, the community will be able to experience the same iconic tale you know and love in the form of a high energy, fun-filled musical production here in Gowanda with an adapted middle school version of this time-honored story. The GMS musical features all the classic songs, including “We’re off to See the Wizard” and “Somewhere over the Rainbow.”

No one knows this better than the students, faculty, staff and parent volunteers of Gowanda Middle School. Volunteers are busy making costumes, putting together programs and building sets. The music rooms, classrooms, auditorium and hallways have also been alive with lines and lyrics these past few weeks in preparation to present the musical production of “The Wizard of Oz: Young Performers Edition.”

GMS will showcase “Wizard of Oz: Young Performers Edition” in the auditorium at Gowanda High School on Wednesday, March 20 and Thursday, March 21 at 7 p.m. All tickets are $5 at the door. A special preview for senior citizens is scheduled Monday, March 18 at 12:30 p.m. The community is encouraged to support the performing arts in the district by attending.

Some Background

The story begins when Dorothy Gale, a young girl living on a farm in Kansas, dreams of escaping her ordinary life. Seemingly out of nowhere, a tornado hits and Dorothy and her loving dog,Toto, are transported to the Land of Oz. In Oz, Dorothy meets Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. Dorothy’s house has landed on and eliminated the Wicked Witch of the East. The Wicked Witch of the West suddenly appears, seeking revenge for her sister’s death. Unable to retrieve her sister’s shoes, which are now on Dorothy’s feet, the Witch promises to return and rapidly vanishes.

Dorothy and Toto, needing a way back home to Kansas, set off to see the Wizard of Oz. Along the way, Dorothy meets three new friends, each of whom is lacking an important quality. The Scarecrow lacks a brain, the Tinman has no heart and the Lion needs some courage. Each hopes the wizard will be of assistance to them. Together, the four new friends make their way toward Oz. Their journey is filled with chance meetings with allies and helpers, but also enemies that pose challenges on their ultimate quest of getting a meeting with the Wizard of Oz.

“When the show was announced back in October, I was surprised to hear that so many students had never seen the movie,” says director Adam Bett. “Getting to introduce this classic tale, with its memorable songs, to a new generation, has been an absolute blast!”

Bett is looking forward to the the community and families to see the results of the students’ hard work and dedication. Several cast members are involved in extracurricular groups and sports in addition to the daily 1-2 hour musical rehearsals.

“These students have not only managed to successfully navigate their after-school responsibilities, but have also remained positive role models in the classrooms along with remaining academically eligible,” says Bett. “To say they have a lot on their plates would be an understatement, and yet they have managed stay positive and committed throughout the process.”

GMS Principal Todd Miklas agrees.

“The energy level of our students for this musical has been tremendous. For those involved, their commitment has been extensive in the hours each student and staff member have dedicated to making sure this is the best performance to date,” says Miklas. “It is great seeing their smiles and enthusiasm as they head on down to practice. Being fairly new to Gowanda, I am continuing to be impressed with our students’ pride in our school and the opportunities and activities that they have available to them, such as the musical. Truly, the key here, from my perspective, is Mr. Bett and how he builds up the production, launches it, organizes it, communicates all the particulars, and simply directs many, many moving components from within the production to external, in simply making things come together. It’s absolutely amazing work by this passionate educator.”

“We all know and cherish the 1939 movie ‘The Wizard of Oz,'” said Bett, the director. “However, we will not be replicating it exactly on our stage. We are trying to pay homage to the past, while breathing new life into these iconic characters. This has provided some creative obstacles for my team and I, however we know we have something special brewing on the stage.”

The Cast of Characters

Glinda will be played by Hailey Christopher, the Wicked Witch will be played by Ella Luther, and the Wizard of Oz by Sam Latimore. The Scarecrow will be played by John Ondus, the Tinman by Cole Herman and the Lion by Hudson Smith. Blake Herman will play Toto and Madilyn Pawlak will portray Dorothy Gale.

Singing Munchkins: Natalie Baco, Colin Barnes, Molly Booth, Aiden Carroll, Benjamin Davis, Isabelle Farley, Lexie Fort, MacKenna Furlet, Cole Gabel, Emma Golden, Patricia Griffith, Honey Huff, Jayden John, Lauren Kelley, Tessa Kohn, Noah Lauer, Savayah Long, Mia Maines, Winter Mentley-Peters, Connor Ribblett, Cynthia Schukraft, Leah Taylor, Natalee Vecchio and Arianna Wolff.

The Ozians: Alexa Kregs, Nevaeh Konwicki, Rhianna Bibeau, Cheyanne Hughes, Brair Bartlett, Nina Coulon, Lexi Farley, Caitlyn Gangi, Matthew Grill, Max Hansen-Ivett, Carson Huch, Aliza Jimerson, Zayne Laskey, Ellarose LeBeau, Sara Lillie, Shia Lindgren, Elizabeth Malek, Seamus Matwijow, Kaylee Marx, Dustin Mohawk, Emily Reynolds, Janice Sanders, Alanson Stafford, Aleez Thompson and Zachary Wright. Shelby Weston plays the role of an Oz woman.

The Winged Monkeys: Andrew Barlow, Quentin Centner, Evan Fort, Destiny Golden, Calie Hudson, Riley Olsen, Emma Schindler, Bailey Suraf, Ben VanNote and Olivia Weslock. Nikko is played by Logan Forthman.

Additional roles of the Winkies will be played by Hayden Abraszek, Malarie Carroll, Gracie Carpenter, Cami Clark, Alhanna Gabel, Kaitlyn Hastie, Dan Humphrey, Emylia McHale, Christian Merrill and Jack Warrior III. Hayden Kaus plays the Winkie Leader.

The Crows: Rhianna Bibeau, Malorie Carroll, Gracie Carpenter, Cami Clark, Kaitlyn Hastie, Cheyanne Hughes, Nevaeh Konwicki, Alexa Krebs, Emylia McHale, Emma Schindler, Bailey Suraf, Olivia Westlock, Shelby Weston and Avery Wilson.

The Jitterbugs: Keion Beaver, Jules Hageman, Heyleigh Hooper, Santino Jefferlone, Sarah Kielar, Darcy Kennedy, Danielle Krajewski, Sonny Kramer, Brody Mescall, Christopher Muntz, Kierra Moses, Lily Nuwer, Cheyanna Pasternack, Winter Riviera, Lily Scanlan, Brayden Smith, Lilah Smith, Maddison Smith. Demetra Sire, William Szalay, Madalyn Troutman, Charlynn Ulmer, Meredith Valone, Helena Wallschlaeger, Damien Warrior, Ariella Wesolek, Hodaweo:je’ Wisniewski and KaeVii Yasurek.

The Lollypop Guild: Chase Bolen, Seth Geiger, and Owen Pfaffenbach while the Lullabye League will be played by Isabelle Graham, Corrina John and Alyssa Ruzycki.

Residents of Munchkinland: Holland Browning as the Barrister of Munchkinland, Connor Wilson as the Mayor of Munchkinland and Jack Warrior III as the Coroner of Munchkinland. Munchkin City Mothers are played by Alyssa Golden and Jillian Gernatt. Additional speaking and singing Munchkin roles are played by Calie Hudson, Destiny Golden and Alhanna Gabel.

The Apple Trees: Madison Luder, Julia Jefferlone, Makayla Kuras, Riley Tighe and Sierra General. Helena Wallschlaeger plays the Cat, the Doorman will be played by Dan Humphrey while the Guard will be played by Riley Olsen.

Residents of Kansas will include Sydney Smith as Miss Gulch, Aunt Em will be performed by Gabby Whipple and Hayden Abraszek will perform the role of Uncle Henry. Hickory will be played by Quentin Centner, Evan Fort will play Hunk, and Zeke will be played by Benjamin VanNote. Professor Marvel is played by Lee Ricotta. Andrew Barlow plays the Cow and Emylia McHale will play the role of Lady in the Rocking Chair. Playing “Man in the Rowboat No. 1” and “Man in the Rowboat No. 2” are the always entertaining Assistant Principal Mr. David Smith and Principal Todd Miklas.

Erin Browning is a sixth-grade English Language Arts teacher and musical producer at Gowanda Middle School.