Every Wednesday after lunch, staff listen carefully as notes of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” float up from the basement of the Health Services building. Participants who are in The Wizard of Oz are hard at work rehearsing, as they have been since early this spring. Our last musical, Annie, was so successful and fun, that we decided we had to put on another production! Although staff teach the class and help with practice, the Participants do everything from painting the sets to singing in the chorus.
“Since this is our second year putting on a musical, things went a lot easier – we knew what to expect,” said Janine Neumann, one of the Fine Arts Instructors. Susan Carlson, another Fine Arts Instructor, agrees. Both staff members feel that the musical productions have been incredible experiences for our Participants. “We have seen positive changes in everyone, from building self-confidence to overcoming obstacles,” says Susan. Building sets, memorizing lines, learning new songs, creating costumes, and gathering up the courage to perform on stage in front of an audience aren’t easy tasks for anyone. However, the cast of The Wizard of Oz have done a fantastic job, all while learning new things about themselves.
Some of the cast members are veteran performers, auditioning again after participating in Annie. Arlyn W., who is playing Blue, one of the colors of the rainbow, prefers this year’s musical. “I love all the songs,” she explains. Even though rehearsal can be hard, and memorizing so many lines can be difficult, she loves to spend time with the staff, and often bursts out laughing at some of the funny lines that she has to say. She always looks forward to putting on her bright blue costume – a big departure from last year where she dressed in shabby clothes as one of the orphans in Annie!
The success of last year’s show motivated many Participants to audition for The Wizard of Oz – there was a lot of new talent from which to choose. Sue K. landed the lead role of Dorothy, even though this year was her first time participating. She couldn’t believe her luck, and was filled with emotion when the cast list was announced. “I’m so happy that I was given a chance to portray the legend Judy Garland!” she exclaimed. She feels a little scared about her upcoming debut, but it’s been worth it. She’s gotten closer to the staff and made a lot of new friends. However, she doesn’t think she’ll be coming back next year. “It’s a lot of work, and I want to let someone else have a chance to be the lead,” she explained.
Who wouldn’t want to come see this production that our Participants worked so hard on? Arlyn and Sue both are looking forward to a big crowd coming out just to see them. “It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Janine said, “and people will see that just because someone has a disability, it doesn’t mean that they can’t be a star!”
The Wizard of Oz performances will take place on November 3 at 7 p.m. and November 4 at 2 p.m. at the Gorton Community Center in Lake Forest. For tickets and more information, call Martha Neigel at 847-990-3703.