Alyssa Shoemaker takes her bid to stardom via The Wizard of Oz

A young Fil-Am unprecedentedly shines in the recent staging of Lyman Frank Baum’s classic fantasy novel, The Wizard of Oz, at the Quibbletown Middle School’s Drama Club in Piscataway, New Jersey. A budding Broadway talent and potential beauty queen, Alyssa J. Shoemaker more than justifiably fits her role as Dorothy Gale to a T. As the little girl who ended in the Land of Oz after being swept away from her Kansas farm house by a cyclone, Alyssa’s stage presence was larger than life with supreme stage dominance that neither induced boredom nor built over exposure… what with her enticingly electrifying stage presence and innately unique vocal capability…undoubtedly, one rarity of her generation!

Already a permanent fixture in numerous Filipino-American community events, the twelve-year old talented singer-actress delineated her Dorothy Gale role with undoubted conviction and confidently delivered more than what was expected of her. Alyssa’s effortless rendition and impeccable acting nuances deliberately won plaudits and thundering applause from the appreciative crowd.

After being initially published on May 17, 1900 The Wizard of Oz has been translated in several languages aside from its maiden stage presentation in Broadway in 1902 and a movie adaptation that starred Judy Garland gave the book its most deserved heightened status as the best known story in the American Pop Culture.

Getting familiar with the story and promising thespians: An orphan raised by her Uncle Henry (Ariel Rogg) and Aunt Em (Jazear Henderson), young Dorothy’s only source of happiness was her dog Toto (Sristi Ramnani) which serves as her companion and playmate in the dry, grey prairies of their Kansas farm. Their house (with her and Toto inside) was lifted by a cyclone and deposited in a field in Munchkin County, killing the evil ruler, the Wicked Witch of the East (Jurnee Edwards). The Good Witch of the North came to Dorothy’s rescue. In order to return home to Kansas, the poor girl has to go to the Emerald City to seek for the help of the Wizard of Oz (Oona Nelson).

Along the way, Dorothy frees a scarecrow (Eric Singh) from a pole where he’s hanging, restores the movements of a rusty Tin Man (Xerxes Tata), and befriend a Cowardly Lion (Koron Stevens) who needs a brain, a heart, and courage, respectively. Together they journeyed to see the Wizard for the solutions of their personal problems.

They arrived at the Emerald City after overcoming numerous obstacles and hindrances along the way. When each traveler meets with the Wizard, he appears in different forms to each character: to Dorothy, he appears as a giant head; to the Scarecrow as a beautiful woman; the tin man sees her as a terrible beast: to the Cowardly Lion she appears as a ball of fire. The Wizard of Oz agrees to help each of them provided they will kill the Wicked Witch of the West who rules over the western Winkie Country.

As they travel to a new destination for their mission, the Wicked Witch sees them and ploys several attempts to kill them like: forty great wolves which the Tin Man manages to kill all; forty crows which the Scarecrow manages to kill by grabbing and breaking their necks; Winkie soldiers that are scared off by the Cowardly Lion; but the Winged monkeys successfully defeated them and were brought to the Wicked Witch.

The Wicked Witch enslaves Dorothy and maltreats her friends by depriving them food. Interested in Dorothy’s silver shoes, the Wicked Witch gets hold of one of its pair and in the former’s anger, she grabs a pale of water and empties its content on the latter that causes her to melt.

There were still a lot of incidents and characters that Dorothy and her friends encountered along the way which they successfully overcame. After accomplishing their mission, the Wizard rewarded the Scarecrow with a head full of brans, pins, and needles; the Tin Man with a silk heart stuffed with sawdust; and the Cowardly Lion with a potion of “courage”. Because of their earnest faith in the Wizard’s power these ordinary items provided a positive effect on what they wished for.

By knocking her heels together for three times as she utters her wish to return home, she finds herself reunited with her Aunt and Uncle when she opens her eyes.

Alyssa Shoemaker’s effective portrayal of Dorothy’s character was superb … made even more convincing with a face exhibiting a gamut of emotion… either standing in silence or moving around the stage emoting with dialogue. She’s equipped with a peculiar voice that emotionally reverberates with resonant expression. Although effervescently young and merely a stageplay acebederian, Alyssa’s moving performance highly challenged her own youthful innocence.

Other members of the cast include: Kayla Aguilar as Glinda, Zoe Walsh as Barrister, Kattie Valarezo as Coronor, and Alyssa Ruiz as Mayor. The Munchkins are played by Destiny Eaton, Jaida Alston, Jessica Nestler, Princess Porch, Sabrina Brokenborough, and Soleil Duvivier while Special Munchkins are Dr. C. Alex Gray, Mina Shin, Kyle Gurkovich, and Kaitlynn Disch.

Acting as Crows are Brooke Bhola, Julie Paul, and Peri Alexander with Sara Razi and Soliel Duvivier (once again) as the Apple Trees. The same members of the cast repeatedly came out and willingly portrayed supporting roles as the Jitterbugs, Ozians, Winged Monkeys, Winkie Guards, etc.

The school production, despite being obviously deprived of detailed visual backdrop and the necessary fundamental elements of a full-prod presentation, was more than successful in its attempt to deliver across the very essence of the story with the right choice of casts, crews, and behind-the-scene staffs who were all alertly on cue.

Amid the voluminous positive comments garnered during the entire duration of its stage run, without any cloud of doubt, these young talents could be wizards in their own right…just given the adequate training to hone their innate talents and peculiar capabilities.

Congratulations are in order to the Director (John Zengerie), Music Director (Thomas Mullaney), Choreographer (Allison Farrinacio), Costume Director (Lisa Wargo), Stage Manager (Dylan Richtmyer), Scrim Engineer (Barry Spence), and Sound Engineer (Gianna Boute). The production wishes to send its special thanks to Deidre Ortiz and Dr. C. Alex Gray, Principal and Vice-Principal of Quibbletown Middle School, respectively.

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