The Yellow Brick Road on the stage at Mount Vernon High School this weekend won’t just be trod by MVHS students. This year’s production, the first on the stage since 2013, will feature students from MVHS, Thornton and Mandela/Zollicofer high schools.
It’s directed by Evelyn Collins, the district’s new director of the arts, who runs the Harlem Ensemble Company, a theater “dedicated to plays exploring the African American experience.”
Collins sees this project not as an extension of work in the classroom but as a demonstration of “the value of art for art’s sake,” creating an ensemble from all three high schools.
“I told them at one of our first meetings that they have to come together to make one ensemble,” Collins says. “If they don’t, if they are kids from Thornton and Mount Vernon and Mandela, the audience will be able to tell.”
Collins has hired a band of six professionals, some coming from as far as her native Detroit to play in the pit. There are also faculty members singing in the pit, to supplement the sound.
“It’s gonna be slammin’,” Collins says with a hearty laugh.
Thornton junior Wade Murphy, who plays the Tin Man, recalls being brave at the audition and deciding to go first.
“I was so nervous, I started shaking and Miss Hall was like, ‘Could you sing a gospel song?’ I sang a gospel song — it popped up in my head — and I thought I wasn’t going to get anything because she had me sing a gospel song.”
Calilah Hines and Aaron Davis were in the last show on the Mount Vernon stage, 2013’s “Once Upon a Mattress.” They say the cast is uniformly talented.
The show’s Dorothy, Mandela junior Moneefa Parker, was originally cast as Glinda the Good, but when another actress left the cast, Parker got an upgrade, one that will have her strutting down a certain road of yellow bricks this weekend.
“The Wiz,” 7 p.m., April 17 and 18; 4 p.m., April 19. $15, $10 students. 914-665-7547.
Here’s the Running Lines video I shot at Mount Vernon. Enjoy!