Toto (Aleyah McDermott), Dorothy (Adelaide Boese, Tin Man (Luke Scherer)and Scarecrow (Brynn Richardson) walking in the haunted forest on their way to the Emerald City.

“Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Riverhead anymore.”

Students at Pulaski Street Intermediate School will perform “The Land of Oz: Pulaski Edition,”  an original adaptation of the classic Wizard of Oz story, this Friday at 5 p.m. at the school’s auditorium.

This is the second production from the school’s drama club, which started last school year. Pulaski teacher Jaimie MacDonald partnered with Roanoke Avenue Elementary School teacher James Richardson and high school band teacher Joe Randazzo, who was then a music teacher at Pulaski.

Richardson wrote the script for the show — a bold departure from the original source material that is filled with pop culture nods, references to Pulaski and licensed music. 

Instead of a twister whisking Dorothy away from Kansas, an East Coast hurricane takes Dorothy — in this version a student at Pulaski — to Munchkinland. Dorothy’s desk crushes the ruby slipper-wearing Wicked Witch of the East, setting off the events of the classic story, rather than her house.

It makes it personal for the students, MacDonald said. “We’re trying to make that connection and show that Pulaski Pride,” she said.

Rehearsals have been running since January, although the club only meets one hour a week. The students have been doubling up on rehearsals since spring break, MacDonald said. They finally performed in front of an audience today: 4th graders from Roanoke. The students will perform for 5th and 6th grade classes at Pulaski on Thursday.

MacDonald said it’s been a “dream” working with the students on the show. 

“They all really want to be here,” she said. In the club, students are learning how to act both on stage and backstage. “For some of them, this is their first time ever on stage.”

“It’s actually amazing, because it’s helping some of these kids become better leaders, better presenters [and] giving them the confidence that they need,” she said.

Adelaide Boese, the 6th grader who plays Dorothy, said it’s been a cool experience working with her friends on the show.

“It’s really cool because it takes such a classic show and puts it into modern day, but it takes in Pulaski Pride — which is patience, respect, inclusivity, determination and encouragement and empathy,” Boese said. “And it’s been really cool, because all my peers that have been in the show with me have just been really nice and I really love doing it.”

There are 24 students in the cast. “They’ve all become such great friends,” MacDonald said. “They see each other outside of school and you can see how excited they are to see each other. They’re excited to be here.”

The production’s materials were donated by community members, including the businesses  Riverhead Building Supply and 84 Lumber, as well as by parents. “There’s no budget. So it’s 100% funded by the community and by donations.”

MacDonald said she hopes Pulaski’s drama club will allow students to develop their connection with theater and continue on to the Middle Masques and Blue Masques after school theatre programs in the middle and high schools.

Cast: Adelaide Boese (Dorothy), Aleyah McDermott (Toto), Brynn Richardson (Scarecrow), Luke Scherer (Tin Man), Eden Greenwood (Lion), Jillian Nohejl (Glinda), Ciara McDonnell (Wicked Witch), John Rodezno (Oz)

Ensemble: Kaelyn Kistinger, Addison White, Ben Foehr, Sal Zapata (Squirrels); Grayson Gradischer, Yerali Membreno, (Guards/CSI Agents); Natalie Claire, Agatha Rosario (Guards/Jigglypuffs); Maggie Morgan, Haley Witt, Morgan Gajowski (Tic, Tac, Toe/Munchkins); Ashton Daniels, Emmy Gregor, Charlotte Haupt, Karlie Nohejl, Ashley Sarpec San Juan (Munchkins/Trees).

RiverheadLOCAL photos by Alek Lewis

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: