This March 4-6, the cast and crew of The Hill School’s Ellis Theatre Guild are excited to take you on a re-imagined journey down the yellow brick road with their original musical production, Love, Dot. The story of Dot and her friends debuts Friday, March 4 at 7:15 p.m.; Saturday, March 5 at 2 p.m. and 7:15 p.m.; and Sunday, March 6 at 2 p.m. Tickets must be reserved online at www.thehill.org/LoveDot.
Note: The Hill recently moved to a mask optional policy. Please refer to the School's Visitors Policy for additional information.
Last year, as the Ellis Theatre Guild was looking ahead to its 2021-22 season, Mary Poppins had been on tap for this year’s winter musical. However, it quickly became apparent to Director of The Center For The Arts Chris McGriff that students were not as enthusiastic about that show as he anticipated and decided to move in another direction.
With the theme of “female empowerment” already set for the 2021-22 season (Gypsy - Fall 2021 and Hunger Games – Spring 2022), McGriff needed another musical to fit that theme as well as one not performed recently by other area schools. In true Chris McGriff fashion, he decided to create his own musical to ensure The Hill School was doing something never seen before.
Enter Love, Dot. According to McGriff, Love, Dot is a “modern retelling of the Wizard of Oz.”
“I wanted to take the things that frustrated me about Dorothy and create her as a strong-minded, independent teenager who makes choices for herself rather than has things brought upon her,” explained McGriff.
McGriff took his idea to Sydnee Johnson, a screenwriter based in Los Angeles, Calif., who wrote a new screenplay just for The Hill School in way that follows the original story, but with a more contemporary feel. McGriff calls the script “brilliant -- original and unique.”
Following the “female empowerment” theme, all the characters in Oz are gender-swapped including the witches; the all-powerful Wizard of Oz; and Dorothy’s (now Dot’s) friends, Scarecrow, Tinman, and Cowardly Lion. These traditionally male roles have been transformed to female roles who share similar qualities to the original characters, but with a more modern twist.
McGriff also enlisted the help of Christopher Robinson - a composer from Orlando, Fla. who arranged the songs for Hill’s spring 2021 musical, Into the Woods - to amplify this modern-day story with high-energy music. The show features popular songs with new and ambitious arrangements from artists such as Beyonce and Pink.
Writing the original storyline and arranging the music are just two components involved in bringing Love, Dot to life on the big stage. McGriff and his team, including the cast and student technicians, are reimagining the costumes for the modern characters along with creating a set for the crazy and whimsical world of Oz and the Emerald City. The production features Isabella Moranheras ’22 in her first lead role as Dot, Meena Ali ’23 as Sandy (Scarecrow), Meredith Marks’24 as Tina (Tinman), and Tiffany Lee’22 and Leona (Cowardly Lion).
“With an original production, there is no guide for how the set and costumes should look or videos to watch to learn the harmonies and choreography from actors on Broadway,” notes McGriff. “Every detail is being created from scratch, which makes for an exceptional learning opportunity for our students.”
In addition to Johnson and Robinson, students have the great opportunity to work daily at The Hill with Pete Gorneault (set design), Bobby Goodrich (costumes), and Laura Cobbs (choreography); the cast also is working with Yoon Soo Lim (vocal direction) on a 19-track Love, Dot original cast album. McGriff and his team truly have paved a new yellow-brick road for Dot and all the characters she meets along her journey to Oz.
Dot: Isabella Moranheras '22
Sandy: Meena Ali '23
Tina: Meredith Marks '24
Leona: Tiffany Lee '22
Glen: Timmy Woodward '24
Wicked Witch of the West: Daniel Schlegel '23
The Wizard: Geordie Ravara '22
Uncle Henry: Harry Whaley '25
Aunt Em: Lizzie Hopper '23
The Good Reverend: Marshall Welch '24
The Good Reverend’s Wife: Holly Perna '22
Wicked Witch of the East: David Gow '23
Cam: Jonny Dai '22
PA to The Wizard: Araiya Casriel '24
The Bouncer Of Oz: Frankie Halvey '24
Tofe Akinyanmi '23 (Tina understudy)
Jonny Dai '22
Cordelia Davies '23
Frankie Halvey '24
Gaby Henao '22
Emma Herzog '24 (Aunt Em understudy)
Ryann Holladay '24
Nicole Leonardo '25 (Dot understudy)
Lucy Lyu '25
Meg O’Halloran '25 (Sandy understudy)
Maggie Qi '25
Logan Ray '25 (Glen understudy)
David Slavtcheff '24
Andrew Spatarella '22 (Captain of the Monkey Guard)
Sophie Walsh '24 (The Good Reverend’s Wife understudy)
Marshal Welch '24 (Wicked Witch of the West understudy)
Sissi Zhen '24
Kelly Grable '23
Payton Jobson '23
Arwen Lutwyche '22
Maggie Qi '25
Zachary Rice '24
Carrie Shang '23
Nimala Sivakumar '23
Martin Tran '22