QUINCY – Bella Green might not have thought that getting involved in “Wizard of Oz” would help her reach new heights.
Green soared through the air before settling into a perfect landing as Glinda the Good Witch in the beloved musical that takes the stage at Quincy High School starting Wednesday, November 10.
“This experience is truly magical,” said junior QHS, who “flies” on and off stage several times during the show.
“It’s the best thing in the world,” said Lorraine Seaman, who flies under the name Wicked Witch. “I didn’t think it would be possible, but it’s fantastic.”
The production is the first of “Wizard of Oz” at QHS – and the first time students have flown on the high school stage.
“You can do the ‘Wizard of Oz’ without stealing, but it’s really magical. It makes the show really pop, ”said Connie Phillips, assistant director / special effects coordinator for the musical.
The story of Dorothy’s visit to Oz unfolds not only with flying characters, but with a living Toto, “a great actor dog, who makes appearances in some scenes,” Phillips said.
“It’s a special show,” said Lily Twaddle, Glinda’s understudy and ensemble member. “Our high school in the Midwest is capable of having Broadway level theaters. It’s so cool that I can be a part of this.
Preparations began last week with a “flight school” led by flight director Brandon Davis of ZFX Flying, based in Louisville, Ky.
The company spent a day getting set up, testing the equipment and getting everyone comfortable with the safety harnesses and being in the air, then two days blocking the various flights for Glinda, the wicked witch, Nikko the flying monkey and the wizard.
“The secret to having a good flight is the teamwork between your flight crew – the people who pull the ropes – and the performer,” said Davis. “It just gets comfortable. It is not a natural thing to do. It’s learning how to stand up in the air and for the guys pulling the strings how to get the spin through.
The show’s flight system needs one operator to do the lift and a second to do the trip – tasks handled by volunteers Jason Keller and Troy Figge, who have worked with Phillips on previous productions involving the flight and practice when to speed up, slow down and stop flights.
In a full costume and flying harness like Glinda, Green settles into a small seat in the “bubble” that carries her on stage, then slips her hand into a rope and hooks up as she exits the backstage.
“I didn’t really have any nerves, just more excitement. It’s just to reassure you that everything will be fine, ”she said. “When you watch it, it’s very slow. It’s faster when you’re up there.
Davis has been flying performers since 2009 for schools, movies, television, Broadway shows, and even cruise ships.
“Every flight is a little different,” Davis said, but his advice to actors remains the same. “Have fun with it. You don’t get the chance to do it very often. Try to take advantage of it.
Flying on stage is “like a roller coaster ride,” said Katie Gorder, an understudy for Nikko.
“It’s like you’re soaring,” said Aiden Hutton, who plays Nikko. “It’s such a cool experience. It ranges from nervousness to outright excitement.
The cast, crew and orchestra all rely on the excitement and energy to be back on stage and producing live theater a year without a show due to COVID-19.
“Being able to give this gift to our students, our families and our community is kind of a wake-up call from the pandemic,” said Todd Pettit, Principal of Quincy Public Schools.
“If people like music, orchestral music, dancing, singing, musical theater in general, they will be greatly rewarded in this show. Hopefully people come out with a smile on their face and find some normalcy in our lives. “