QUINCY — Bella Green might have only thought that getting involved in “Wizard of Oz” would help her soar to new heights.
Now she’s proved it.
Green soared through the air before setting down in a perfect landing as Glinda, the good witch, in the beloved musical taking the stage at Quincy High school starting Wednesday, Nov. 10.
“This experience is really magical,” said the QHS junior, who “flies” on and off stage multiple times during the show.
“It’s the best thing in the world,” said Lorraine Seaman, who flies as the Wicked Witch. “I didn’t think it would be possible, but it’s fantastic.”
The production is the first of “Wizard of Oz” at QHS — and the first time students have flown on the high school stage.
“You can do ‘Wizard of Oz’ without flying, but truly it’s just magical. It just makes the show really pop,” said Connie Phillips, the musical’s assistant director/special effects coordinator.
The story of Dorothy’s visit to Oz unfolds not only with flying characters but with a live Toto, “a great actor dog, who makes appearances in certain scenes,” Phillips said
“It’s a special show,” said Lily Twaddle, the understudy for Glinda and an ensemble member. “Our high school in the Midwest is able to have Broadway-level theatrics. It’s so cool that I get to be part of this.”
Preparations began last week with “flight school” led by flight director Brandon Davis of Louisville, Ky.-based ZFX Flying.
The company spent one day setting up, testing equipment and getting everybody comfortable with safety harnesses and being in the air, then two days of blocking the different flights for Glinda, the Wicked Witch, Nikko the flying monkey and the Wizard.
“The secret to having a good flight is teamwork between your fly crew — the people pulling the ropes — and the performer,” Davis said. “It’s just getting comfortable. It’s not a natural thing to do. It’s learning how to hold yourself in the air and for the guys pulling the ropes how to get the effect across.”
The show’s fly system needs one operator to do the lift and a second to do the travel — tasks handled by volunteers Jason Keller and Troy Figge, who have worked with Phillips on past productions involving flying and practice when to speed up, slow down and stop the flights.
In full costume and flying harness as Glinda, Green settles on a small seat in the “bubble” carrying her on stage, then slips her hand through a rope and holds on as she rises off backstage.
“I didn’t really have any nerves, just more excitement. It’s just reassuring yourself you’re going to be OK,” she said. “When you look at it, it’s very slow. It feels faster when you’re up there.”
Davis has been flying performers since 2009 for schools, movies, television, Broadway shows and even cruise ships.
“Each flight is a little different,” Davis said, but his advice to the actors remains the same. “Have fun with it. You don’t get to do this very often. Try to enjoy it.”
Flying onstage is “like a roller coaster ride,” said Katie Gorder, an understudy for Nikko.
“It feels like you’re soaring,” said Aiden Hutton, who plays Nikko. “It’s such a cool experience. It goes from nervousness to plain excitement.”
Cast, crew and orchestra all draw on the excitement and energy of being back on stage and producing live theater a year without a show due to COVID-19.
“To be able to offer this gift to our students, families and community is an awakening of sorts after the pandemic,” Quincy Public Schools Director of K-12 Music Todd Pettit said.
“If people enjoy music, orchestral music, dancing, singing, musical theater in general, they’re going to be greatly rewarded in this show. Hopefully people walk out with smiles on their faces and have a little bit of normal back in our life again.”