Every three years music teacher Carolyn Kennedy pulls out all stops and produces a full-blown musical at Sand Creek Elementary School, Coon Rapids.
Well, this year audiences were in for a treat when Kennedy produced and directed “The Magical Land of Oz.”
The play, based on the book by L. Frank Baum, is written by Tim Kelly with music by Bill Francoeur.
In addition to the eight weeks of rehearsal after school (three days a week for nearly two hours), Kennedy, along with 40 volunteers, also sewed costumes and painted scenery during five Saturday mornings.
But the show is not about the director. It’s about the kids.
And Kennedy, in her 34th year of teaching, cleverly engaged 115 fifth-graders in a production they will not soon forget.
“I just like doing them,” she said about putting on a musical.
‘“It’s like a journey. You work with talented children. It gives kids an opportunity to be in a chorus – kids who will probably never be on stage in their lives. It creates a memory.”
Sprightly songs and shiny spotlights aside, challenges come along with putting on an extravaganza with assorted and energized kids and their busy schedules.
There’s getting costume pieces to the sewers, painting and building sets, teaching students how to memorize lines and trying to encourage good attendance at rehearsal.
But Kennedy in her usual manner managed to pull everything together for an audience-pleasing production.
Audiences were treated to the much adored story of Dorothy whose house was whisked away by a tornado. After a lengthy search, she and her dog Toto end up meeting Oz who might just hold her ticket to find the way home.
Along the way, Dorothy meets the usual cast of characters – Tin Man, Scarecrow and Lion.
But Kennedy spiced up the production with students doubling as poppies, fighting trees, Emerald City guardians and citizens and China princesses.
And, of course, what would the show be without Auntie Em, Munchkins, Flying Monkeys and the Wicked Witch of the West? Let us not forget Glenda, the Good Witch, too.
This play followed the book rather than the classic movie version and featured silver slippers for Dorothy instead of ruby red slippers.
Student involvement in the production teaches commitment, Kennedy said. It teaches them how to polish a piece, timing and team work.
“Everything is interrelated,” Kennedy said. “The chorus and crew are as important as the main leading roles.”
The two-act play was staged in the school’s gymnasium March 22 and 23.
Kennedy graduated from Augsburg College with a bachelor’s of music education degree. She holds a master’s degree in music education from the University of Minnesota.
She started the Blaine Cluster Elementary Honors Choir 13 years ago with former music teacher Peggy Judge.
This year, she stepped down from the directing position. Cathy Yseth has taken her place.
Kennedy teaches 46 sections of classroom music to about 700 students in the K-5 Sand Creek School.
Although she produces a full-blown musical every three years, she plans to veer from her course.
She already has volunteers lined up for next year’s production of “Robin Hood,” another blockbuster of a musical.
“It’s my 34th year of teaching and I love what I do,” Kennedy said.
Elyse Kaner is at [email protected]