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Charleroi students stage 'The Wizard of Oz'

| Saturday, March 1, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
Charleroi Area Students will present the “Wizard of Oz” at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 7 and 8, and 2 p.m. March 9. Among the cast are (from left) Maggie Sukel as the Wicked Witch, Christopher Bittner as the Scarecrow, Brayden Shepherd as the Cowardly Lion, Abby Smith as Dorothy, David Young as the Tin Man, Brennan Mathews as Oz, and Brianna Kelly as Glinda.

Warning to anyone attending Charleroi Area High School's presentation of “The Wizard of Oz:” “This is not the movie version,” said Stacie Cifrulak, high school mathematics teacher and assistant director, producer and choreographer of the presentation.

“We chose this particular version of ‘The Wizard of Oz' because it will be a new experience for everyone,” Cifrulak added. “Although it shares a similar plot with the movie, it has some added characters and scenes that allow us to feature more talent and add an element of surprise for the audience.”

Included in that list of talented performers who will be sharing the Charleroi Area High School auditorium stage are seniors Abby Smith, cast as Dorothy, and Maggie Sukel, cast as the Wicked Witch. Both held leading roles in last year's presentation of “The Little Shop of Horrors,” with Abby portraying Ronette and Maggie as Audrey II.

Additionally, seniors Brianna Kelly (Glinda), Brennan Matthews (Wizard), Brayden Shepherd (Cowardly Lion), and David Young (Tin Man), plus junior Chris Bittner (Scarecrow) have obviously familiar and prominent roles.

Jaron Andrechak is once again stage manager for the presentation. Laboring relatively anonymously, except to those associated with the musical, Andrechak has served as Charleroi Area's stage manager since he was in middle school and hopes to pursue a career in stage management.

An added major musical number is in Act 1 Scene 2, in Munchkinland when Charleroi Area's elementary students join the fun.

Even though Charleroi Area, like other area schools, lost considerable rehearsal time due to an uncooperative Mother Nature, “‘The Wizard of Oz' is still on schedule, which says so much for the endless and hard work of the cast members and supporting staff,” continued Cifrulak, in her second year working with the musical.

“This is the time of the year where it really starts to become fun because the students have an opportunity to see how everything looks, start in their costumes, and using all their props definitely helps them to get in character,” she said. “Put everything together and the story comes alive. Having the elementary students involved as Munchkins helps that particular scene come alive, as well. Our elementary school students are so excited just to be a part of the musical and they add a vibrance to the Munchkinland scene.”

Les Harvath is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.