Challenges persist as Helias’ “Wizard of Oz” aims for authenticity by Jack Treu

This is the week many at Helias may see some young men wearing black eyeliner, tan, silver or gold eye shadow, or maybe even mascara. Don’t be alarmed. These young men are most likely in the Helias production of “The Wizard of Oz,” and with only two days left before its debut, that means the cast and crew are going through a week called dress rehearsals, and with dress rehearsals come two things, makeup and costumes. “The Wizard of Oz” is famous for its costumes, whether it be the original lion costume from the 1939 film that was made from real lion hide, the Tin Man’s aluminum body paint that poisoned the original actor, or the corset that Judy Garland had to wear to fit into her dress.

Although the Helias production hasn’t gotten their paws on a real lion hide, the costumes are still extravagant and every bit as hot. One example is Lanie Hentges’ dress. Hentges plays Glinda the Good Witch and has to wear a dress that doesn’t even fit in a dressing room. To get the dress on, Hentges has to be helped by a team of crew members before she is secured into her flying cables and harness and floated over those characters on stage for her scenes with the munchkins and Dorothy and friends.

“I found a pin in it,” said Lanie Hentges. “So, when I put my arm in it, it stabbed me.”

Another one of the costumes that takes some time to get used to is the Tin Man’s. The Tin Man, played by Nick Gladbach, is confined to a 40 pound chest and arm piece, and two 15 pound legs. In his costume, Gladbach cannot bend over or sit down. If he wants to rest, he has to lean against a wall or have someone hold him up. Inside the chest piece are two shoulder pads that the weight rests on.

“There’s some intricate dance moves that are not physically possible,” said Gladbach.

Nick Gladbach

(Actor Nick Gladbach flaunts his new heart as the Tin Man.)

The difficulty facing the Lion and the Scarecrow is heat. The lion wears a full body suit as well as various pads and finally a wig full of curls. The actor Ben Stumpe is at a serious threat for overheating and sweating off all of his makeup.

“It’s thick and it’s heavy,” said Stumpe. “It’s sweaty. I couldn’t feel more connected to a lion.”

For the Scarecrow, the issues facing him are the many pieces of clothing required to make him look the part. The actor Jack Treu has to wear khaki pants under his burlap sack pants full of straw. On top, he has to wear a tan shirt under his green canvas shirt. On his head, he wears a burlap scowl and a black hat which causes him to sweat off some of his makeup and leads to him needing ice packs and water while off stage.

Although there are many other interesting and unique costumes in “The Wizard of Oz,” such as the flying monkeys, the Ozians and the Jitterbugs, the Helias community has to go see the show Friday, March 10, Saturday, March 11 or Sunday, March 12, if they want to see the costumes for themselves. Needless to say, the actors of “The Wizard of Oz” are sacrificing comfort for authenticity, as evident from the time and commitment from Dorothy and Friends as well as Glinda.

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