As ‘Wiz’ opening draws near, sets almost finished
by Hawkins Teague
Jul 04, 2007 | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
While more than 40 cast members of “The Wiz” are working on their lines, performances, singing and dancing, a smaller group of less visible people are working just as hard to make sure they have a magical Oz to occupy. Without them, Dorothy would be whisked away by a twister not to Munchkin Land or the Emerald City, but perhaps to the Land of Drab Black Curtains.

Paul Fourshee said that at least six people are working with him to build the sets and paint the backdrops for the musical, which premieres next weekend on July 13. Among the things that have to be created are a front porch for Dorothy’s home in Kansas, a hot air balloon for the Wiz himself, a countryside scene and the interior of a castle. Fourshee said there’s a bit more, but he’d rather not reveal them and spoil all the fun.

While many people in the community were impressed by the colorful, professional-looking sets and backdrops for last year’s “Suessical: The Musical,” Fourshee said he doesn’t consider this year’s job a more challenging one. Although he thinks of himself as an average carpenter at best, he said he has been talked into building sets for many plays over the years.

Planning how to stage plays in the high school’s Little Theater, he said, is particularly challenging because it has many limitations. For one thing, there is no “fly space,” meaning the area above the stage where curtains and backdrops traditionally stay out of sight until they are needed and lowered onto the stage. Because the ceiling is so low, Fourshee said the backdrops all have to be made of cloth so that they can be folded up until it is time for them to be visible.

The stage is also cramped on the sides, where there is no place to hide sets and props just out of view. Because of this many elements have to be flat, Fourshee said.

“If something is very big, you can’t easily move it out of sight,” he said. “And since there are so many onstage at a time, you can’t have anything that’s too large either.”

Fourshee said he hopes that the walls on each side of the stage are one day torn down because it would liberate the designer and director of a show much more. He said that the problem with the theater was that it was designed to do too many things, such as be both a musical performance venue and a lecture hall.

“That’s what happens when you try to do too many things,” he said.

Luckily, some of the theater’s will be forgotten once “The Wiz” opens because the producers of the show will be renting much more advanced equipment than was used in last year’s show, Fourshee said. Instead of clip-on lapel microphones, actors will be wearing six headsets, which are barely visible from a distance. The four main characters will be wearing them the full time and whoever else is singing a main part in a given scene. This will eliminate many of the problems that plagued even the best moments of “Suessical,” in which vocals faded out when the singers looked in different directions, or they couldn’t be heard as the equipment rustled against their costumes.

For the rest of this story, read this week's Cadiz Record.
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