ELLSWORTH — Never mind Captain Marvel. A real life marvel, right here in Hancock County, is Leslie Michaud. This theatrical superhero has, for many years, entertained us on stage at The Grand and other theaters as an actor and singer.
Who can forget her Mrs. Potts from “Beauty and the Beast”? Or her many Gilbert & Sullivan roles? She now has taken on the near monumental task of directing The Grand’s spring musical, “The Wizard of Oz,” which involves three large choruses — munchkins, Ozians, Poppies, Jitterbugs — plus a barrelful of bad monkeys, a flock of crows, a troop of Winkies, a stand of trees with attitude, a couple of witches and of course a lion, a tin man, a scarecrow and a plucky little girl and her dog Toto, too.
That’s about 50 cast members ranging in age from 4 to 60-something.
The musical, which will run weekends April 5-20, is in the final weeks of rehearsal and last Wednesday evening, Michaud’s citizens of Oz were putting some polish on several musical numbers.
Probably each one of the 20 or so performers, crew and directors have come from a busy day at work, school or managing a household. In fact, choreographer Ashley Terwilliger brought part of her household with her to rehearsal, dandling her adorable infant daughter on her hip the entire time. Had the adults exhibited some fatigue or the kids been grumpy or distracted one would have understood, but instead they all seemed full of pizzaz and enthusiasm, happily going over and over certain dance steps and songs until their directors were satisfied. Even the baby was in good spirits.
Michaud, too, seemed energized, pleased by the progress her cast is making, and by the show itself.
“I love this material,” she said. “It’s filled with spirit and explores both the world we live in and this other magical dimension.”
Michaud says she is thrilled with the talents of her multi-generational cast, which includes some local stage celebs such as Daniel Clement (as the Wizard), Drew and Jennifer Myers (Tin Man and Wicked Witch), Benjamin Chandler (Lion), Brady Kelly (Scarecrow) and a number of middle and high School show choir trained talents — most notably Emma Campbell as Dorothy.
The problem, Michaud acknowledged, is getting these talents together to rehearse.
“With all these choruses and small groups,” she said, “finding days and times that work for everyone has been a, well … challenge.”
Fortunately, she has not been alone in organizing all this, and she admits to leaning heavily on her stage manager Mary Clark, who appears to be managing the taped music for this show as well as taking staging notes.
The cast is singing the overly optimistic song “You’re Outta the Woods,” as our motley crew approaches the gates of the Emerald City.
“OK, that’s good, keep it light and operatic,” the director says when they finish. “But it needs more form. Music doesn’t have its own form and shouldn’t maintain an even level. It needs to be shaped. You have to give it that shape by using vocal arcs.”
She goes on to explain the dynamic she is seeking. When they repeat the number, the song does indeed have a more interesting, cohesive shape and they move on to the next number, in which the questing foursome, get a quick spa treatment.
This one is fraught with timing issues. But it, too, improves after a couple of run-throughs, with the Cowardly Lion already stealing the show with his hilarious facial expressions.
The Grand is hoping for a good turnout to raise money for a much needed new sound system, so they can return to having live orchestral accompaniment rather than sound tracks for these musicals, which would give our talented community musicians a chance to participate, as well.
Performances of “The Wizard of Oz” are at 7 p.m. Friday-Saturday, April 5-6 and April 12-13 and at 13, 19 at 7 p.m. and at 2 p.m. April 6, 7, 13, 14, and 20. Admission costs $20 per adult and senior, $18 per Grand member and $12 for students (17 and under).
To reserve seats and for more info, call 667-9500 or visit grandonline.org.