Notre Dame students gear up for The Wizard of Oz

Charms of legendary show captured in classic musical

Notre Dame High School drama students are putting the finishing touches on their magical musical rendition of The Wizard of Oz running March 15-17 at the Memorial Centre.

Curtain is at 7 p.m. There will also be a matinee on March 17 at 1 p.m.

Written by L. Frank Baum with music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, the show features the character of Dorothy Gale who hails from Kansas. One day a twister slams into her farm and carries her over the rainbow to am enchanting, mysterious and magical world where she meets the scarecrow, the tin man and the cowardly lion. Along with her trusty dog Toto, the group of friends embark on a quest of exploring the reaches of Dorothy’s imagination.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a 1900 novel by L. Frank Baum, which has been adapted into several different productions, the most famous being the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz starring Judy Garland.

Under the direction of Jennifer Warder, Notre Dame is following an adaptation by John Kane for the Royal Shakespeare Company. It’s based on the novel and 1939 film, and more closely follows the film’s screenplay than other versions have.

“I wanted to do it, and I thought it was the right time,” said Warder, adding that the auditioning process proved a challenge as there was an abundance of talent to choose from. Two sets of actors will be featured over the course of the show’s run.

“I took as many people as I possibly could.”

The Notre Dame production includes a cast of about 40. There are also 18 children onboard to play the munchkins, 20 students covering the show’s technical aspects and 12 musicians as well.

Of course, finding the right students to play Dorothy took a bit of time. Warder selected two – Rina Pelletier and Tevra Plamondon – to tackle the iconic role.

“Rina has a beautiful voice, she’s so talented and hard-working as well. She also has a real serenity and a curiosity about her and a kind child-like honesty. Tevra is a fireball with lots of punchy energy. She has so much talent for someone so young. They’re both beautiful.”

As for keeping everything running smoothly over the past several months of rehearsal, it’s a meticulous process that’s certainly had its challenges. But Warder has relished every step of the experience.

“It’s definitely a large undertaking – adding music, singing, dancing and a live orchestra,” she explains. “It’s a lot of work and it takes a lot of people working together to make it happen. It’s quite a technically advanced show.”

Audiences will recognize musical classics such as Over the Rainbow, Munchkinland (Ding Dong, The Witch is Dead), If I Only Had a Brain, If I Only Had a Heart, If I Only Had the Nerve, We’re Off to See the Wizard (Follow the Yellow Brick Road) and The Merry Old Land of Oz. Another tune, The Jitterbug, will be featured as well (it was left out of the movie version).

Warder said her students, some of whom weren’t overly familiar with the story, quickly took a shine to its timeless appeal and rich, exciting storyline.

“It’s a show that has really found a place in everyone’s hearts. Really, it’s about finding happiness within yourself,” said Warder of the production’s many themes. Its universal nature – touching on the importance of friendship and community – also lend to the ‘staying power’ of The Wizard of Oz.

For Warder, watching her dedicated students join forces for a show that is sure to enchant audiences has been a joy. As a teacher, it’s been wonderful to watch the creative journey the students have taken from the initial steps in the rehearsal process to introducing the play to the community, she said. To see them enjoy the accolades and rewards of presenting a quality production is also something of a gift.

“As an artist, it’s really rewarding to see something go from an idea and watch it come to life onstage; to see all the details come together. And then also to see how it affects people and hopefully inspires audiences.”

Tickets are available at Ticket Central outlet by calling 403-347-0800 or visiting