When Alex Hiebert takes the stage as Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” at Goessel High School Nov. 9 and 10, her connection to the role of a young Kansas girl trying to find her way home goes a bit deeper than just learning the lines and singing the songs.
“You can find home wherever you are,” Hiebert said, at a full costume rehearsal Thursday. “But this year I really had to think about where I wanted to be to finish my senior year of high school.”
Hiebert and her immediate family moved to Buhler at the end of summer, but she has many extended relatives and friends still in the Goessel community.
“I really thought seriously about going to Buhler High School for my senior year,” she said. “But all my friends are here and Goessel has been my home for so long. I just couldn’t imagine graduating anywhere else. I wanted to be here with my friends.”
Hiebert, who never had a leading role in a musical before “The Wizard of Oz,” said playing the part of Dorothy was something she was excited to do.
“I’ve always loved the Wizard of Oz,” she said. “And Dorothy is such a sweet, innocent, fun character. When I heard we were doing this play, I just had to get the part, I just identify with her so much.”
Goessel will be staging the Royal Shakespeare Company version of “The Wizard of Oz” with music and lyrics from the MGM motion picture score by Harold Arlen, E.Y. Harburg, Herbert Stothart, and John Kane.
Several musical numbers enhance the production, including “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” sung by Dorothy Gale, played by Hiebert.
Other cast members include Keenan Stultz, sophomore, who plays Uncle Henry; Georgia Thiesen, senior, doubly-cast as Aunt Em and Glinda the Good Witch of the North; Sarah Booth, sophomore, playing Almira Gultch and the Wicked Witch of the West; Mark Schmidt, junior, as Hunk and Scarecrow; Davis Cook, senior, as Hickory and Tin Man; and Luke Unruh, freshman, as Zeke and Cowardly Lion.
David Hesse, sophomore, plays Professor Marvel and the great Wizard of Oz; Erin Brubaker is the Munchkin Mayor, while Leighton Wagner plays the Munchkin Coroner. Gentry Thiesen plays the Emerald City guard, and Zachary Wiens is Nikko, the Commander of the Flying Monkeys. Pepper Makovec, a live dog, appears as Toto.
“Working with a real animal on stage has been … interesting,” Hiebert said. “I thought I had all my lines memorized, but since we added the dog I find it really hard to focus. He does add a fun element to the whole thing though.”
Also bringing the stage to life are munchkins, talking trees, citizens of Oz, flying monkeys, and guards, played by more Goessel High School students.
Hiebert said the best part of the whole play experience so far was being able to spend time with friends at practices.
“It’s been a really tough schedule,” she said. “I don’t know how we have all gotten through it, but we have formed some really strong friendships by spending all this time together in rehearsals.”
Hiebert, also a member of Elbiata Honor Choir and the GHS volleyball team that recently won Wheat State League and sub-state runner-up titles, said her schedule has been very full in recent weeks.
Musical director Renae Schmidt Peters said the hard work and dedication of Goessel students was evident in their success.
“Sometimes these kids are here from before 7:30 a.m. to after 10 at night,” Peters said. “They are all working so hard. They are really bringing this whole show to life. It’s just amazing.”
Performance times for “The Wizard of Oz” on Friday and Saturday is 7 p.m. at GHS auditorium, with Family Career and Community Leaders group members serving a lasagna dinner from 5:45 to 6:45 in the Goessel High School cafeteria. Admission for the musical is $5 for adults and $3 for children, students, and seniors. Tickets are available from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at GHS office or by calling (620) 367-2242.