The Talented Teachers Behind the “Wizard of Oz”


Maya Sabbaghian

[From left to right] Samantha Gardner, Desmond Stevens, Emily Sheridan and Megan Kirby are in the lobby of the theater greeting parents who watched the show and congratulating the student cast on May 3 while enjoying the company of each other.

“The Wizard of Oz” production demonstrated its talents on May 3-5, bringing together five staff members who put in months of work to guide the musical to its success, including dance director Samantha Gardner, drama teacher Megan Kirby, artistic designer Kearci Moir, choir director Adrian Rangel-Sanchez and visual and performing arts department chair Desmond Stevens. A review of the musical can be found here: Follow the Yellow Brick Road: A Review of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ Musical.

When the visual and performing arts department put on “The Lion King Jr.” during the 2016-17 school year, the budget and amount of students who worked on the musical limited the production. With more staff and student helpers, the production was able to be a larger showcase of more students’ abilities.

“We had a lot more room with our money and the things that we can do,” Kirby said. “It’s more flexible than ‘Lion King’ was and definitely more pieces to put together, especially with the orchestra and all the technical elements.”

Gardner, Rangel-Sanchez and Moir acted as specialists, each focusing on one aspect of the performance: choreography, vocals and sets respectively. By having more staff working on the musical, each department was visually and audibly better.

“There were very specific things that each of us were able to focus on,” Gardner said. “It was great because we had a musical that had strong dance numbers, strong vocals, strong acting, strong artwork and strong music.”

Having a supportive environment during rehearsals gave practicing a better perspective for each of the actors because of more realistic elements being involved, like the sets and props.

“Last year we didn’t have an orchestra in the pit, so Stevens was doing all the vocal directions,” Kirby said. “This year, he had the orchestra to direct, so Rangel is doing vocal directions and Gardner did all the choreography. It was really nice to have other people helping.”

In addition to directing the pit orchestra, VAPA department chair Stevens produced the show. He dealt with the budget and made sure the program retained the rights to the musical.

“All the stress and pressure and anxiety of putting together the music and putting it together with the actors and scenes and sets and all the stage crew can be really stressful,” Stevens said. “Seeing all of that hard work come to fruition is a really amazing thing to be witness to.”