Dramatic collaboration

Naugatuck High, Western students to present the Wizard of Oz

Naugatuck High School students Alex Hernandez, left, as Dorothy, and Kaylin Spaulding, as Glenda, rehearse a scene from the Wizard of Oz Feb. 4 at the high school. The drama clubs from the high school and Western Elementary School have team up to present the Wizard of Oz Feb. 21 and Feb 22 at Naugatuck High. –LUKE MARSHALL

Naugatuck High School students Alex Hernandez, left, as Dorothy, and Kaylin Spaulding, as Glenda, rehearse a scene from the Wizard of Oz Feb. 4 at the high school. The drama clubs from the high school and Western Elementary School have team up to present the Wizard of Oz Feb. 21 and Feb 22 at Naugatuck High. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — High school students, elementary school students and a musical. Oh, my!

The Naugatuck High School and Western Elementary School drama clubs are collaborating to bring the Wizard of Oz to the stage.

The Wizard of Oz, which is based on the novel by L. Frank Baum, follows the classic tale of Dorothy as she is swept away to the Land of Oz and must find her way back to Kansas.

Naugatuck High drama coach and director Stephanie Colella said this is the first time borough elementary and high school students have worked together on a play.

“It’s been very good because the older kids are kind of mentoring the younger kids,” Colella said. “They’re showing them the ropes, where you need to be when — kind of encouraging them. And in doing that, in taking on that leadership role, I think the older kids are becoming better actors themselves.”

Colella started a drama club at the former Central Avenue Elementary School when she worked there and again in Western Elementary School, where she currently teaches third grade. She had originally planned to produce the show with the elementary school students before being offered the position as the high school’s drama coach.

Since she had already planned on doing the play at Western, she figured she could combine the actors from both schools into one production.

“It worked out very well because it was the best show you could possibly do when you’re combining groups. That was the main reason why we joined together,” Colella said.

Naugatuck High senior Alex Hernandez, who is playing Dorothy, enjoys working with her young co-stars.

“Personally, I love it. They just bring this whole new twist to the show and they add more excitement. Instead of just having the high school kids you have the cute little factor in there. They do a great job,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez said the young actors have done a good job memorizing their lines and learning their cues.

Naugatuck High junior Michael Newman, who is playing the Tin Man, said the Western students were a little intimidated and enthusiastic when rehearsals began. However, with the show a week away, Newman is much more confident in the young actors’ abilities.

“They’ve gotten so much better. They’ve got a taste of what will happen in the future and what they need to do. It makes them feel good that they are part of a production that’s older,” Newman said. “Throughout the process of memorizing lines and the basic theater stuff they’ve gotten a taste of what it’s like and they know what to do.”

This is also the first time in the memory of everyone involved with this production that the high school has put on a musical.

Colella said she selected the Wizard of Oz because it’s many people’s favorite play and will bring attention to the high school’s theater program.

Naugatuck High School students Preston Bogan, left, as the Scarecrow, and Alex Hernandez, as Dorothy, rehearse their lines from Wizard of Oz Feb. 4 at the high school. The drama clubs from the high school and Western Elementary School have team up to present the Wizard of Oz Feb. 21 and Feb 22 at Naugatuck High. –LUKE MARSHALL

Naugatuck High School students Preston Bogan, left, as the Scarecrow, and Alex Hernandez, as Dorothy, rehearse their lines from Wizard of Oz Feb. 4 at the high school. The drama clubs from the high school and Western Elementary School have team up to present the Wizard of Oz Feb. 21 and Feb 22 at Naugatuck High. –LUKE MARSHALL

“Naugatuck High School’s [theater] program was very small, not many people knew of it, so it was a play we could use to get it more recognition, bring more people in, and, in our combination of Western and Naugatuck High, it was a show both young and old know and there were parts for both young and old,” Colella said.

Although the actors, both young and old, have been working hard to put on a great production, the numerous recent snow days have caused issues with the rehearsal schedule.

Hernandez said everyone has pulled together and worked harder to make up for any missed days.

“We are going to be ready. It was hard getting all the snow days and it was very stressful to be working in those conditions, but we pulled it through. We really tried our hardest, got back on our feet, and have worked 10 times as hard as we need to have all those snow days. We’re getting through it,” Hernandez said.

Newman echoed Hernandez’s sentiments.

“Yes, it will get in the way and it will stress all of us out, but a lot of people perform better under pressure. We’ll definitely get it together,” Newman said.

In the end, the show must go on.

Colella said the addition of Western students and some of the new twists in this production will thrill audiences.

“I think it’s a favorite of so many different people and to see it enacted on the stage is always fantastic. The collaboration between the little kids and big kids is a really cool thing to see. Also we kind of jazzed up a couple different aspects of the show and put some modern pieces into it that people should look for when they come see it,” Colella said.

The Wizard of Oz will be presented Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. and Feb 22 at 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. at Naugatuck High School, 543 Rubber Ave. Tickets are $5 in advance and $7 at the door. For advanced tickets, email naugytheatre@gmail.com.

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