Wednesday, Aug 16, 2017

HHS prepares to see the wizard

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Harvard High School teacher Taryn DeVries walks the cast of the musical “The Wizard of Oz” through the script Jan. 22. The musical will be presented at the high school Friday to Sunday, April 10 to 12. HML PHOTO BY JAY SCHULZ

Harvard High School administrators had to scramble after Christmas break to find a director for the spring musical after choir director Haley Gifford resigned. A replacement was found on staff as Taryn DeVries, who teaches English and creative writing, has accepted the challenge.

DeVries will direct “The Wizard of Oz,” which will be presented Friday to Sunday, April 10 to 12, in the north gym of the high school.

DeVries, a graduate of Cary-Grove High School and Eastern Illinois University, has worked in some capacity in five musicals. She also directed stage theater in high school.

“I’ve always been big into musicals,” DeVries said. “I did them in high school. I did them in college. [HHS Band Director Korey Coffer] asked me if I could do it, and I said yes.

“I love this type of stuff. I was a theater minor for a really long time. I live and breathe this.”

The production will be based upon the Muny version of the story, which was created for the Municipal Theatre Association of St. Louis and first presented in 1942. This version does not include Toto or ruby slippers.

“It’s from a different writer, and it is based on the literature, not the movie,” DeVries said. “It’s a little different. I think it will surprise audiences in a good way. I worked on “The Wiz” so I am familiar with the style.

“Our leads really fit the characters. It’s going to be exciting. There are some twists.”

DeVries said the production has all the musical numbers that fans of the story has come to love including “If I Only Had a Brain,” “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Ding Dong, the Witch Is Dead.”

Coffer, who will lead the 12-member pit orchestra, said the music “seems to be pretty standard.” The pit orchestra began practicing at the beginning of February.

HHS building and trades teacher Bob Mundis is in charge of the 10-person stage crew and said the crew has six scenes to construct. Mundis said new this year is the seven upperclassmen on the live production team who are designing and planning the show.

There are 25 students in the cast – 15 from HHS and 10 from Harvard Junior High School.

“I’m glad to have the junior high students helping us out,” DeVries said. “The biggest challenge is the kids who are trying out are involved in lots of things – wrestling, academic teams, chess team, etc. We need to make sure everyone gets enough practice.”

The cast will practice every day after school and will have spring break week off.

“It’s going to be a lot of work, but I think it’s going to really pay off,” DeVries said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”