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Laurel Highlands High School thespians are off to see the wizard

| Saturday, March 2, 2013, 8:12 p.m.
Cast members (from left) Benjamin Ashton, Joseph Onesi, Elise Monaghan and Michael Giachetti rehearse the forest scene in the upcoming “The Wizard of Oz.” MARILYN FORBES I FOR THE TRIBUNE-REVIEW

The students of Laurel Highlands High School will take their audiences somewhere over the rainbow to the enchanted land of Oz as they stage the perennial classic musical “The Wizard of Oz” next weekend in the auditorium at the high school.

Directed by chorus and theater teacher Lauren Groves, the show will feature students from first grade and up in the lavish production meant to delight audiences of all ages.

“Our youngest cast member is 6,” Groves said, adding that more than 130 elementary-aged children attended the auditions for the 20-plus spots available for “Munchkins.” “I cast as many as I could. We couldn't have any more because it would be just too many people on the stage.”

Groves said that she wanted to do the popular musical last year but wanted it to be a surprise.

“It leaked out,” Groves said. “I really wanted it to be a surprise, so I decided then to go with ‘Legally Blonde' last year.”

Groves said that the cast and crew number about 80 and the massive production is coming along well, and although the show is expensive to stage, they managed to secure the needed money.

“We did a lot of fundraising and last year we did everything that we could to be budget-conscious so we actually came out a little ahead last year,” Groves said. “We rented all of our costumes for this show so I think they will be pretty amazing.”

Rehearsing since the beginning of the year, the cast members are putting the final touches on the show as they get ready to stage the classic.

The part of Dorothy will be played by Elise Monaghan of Uniontown, who has been in previous productions but looks forward to playing the starring role.

“I really didn't expect to be cast as Dorothy,” Monaghan said. “It was a surprise, but a fun surprise.”

Monaghan said that she is a little intimidated by playing such a famous character but is working on her own rendition of the cinematic icon.

“I'm not like Judy Garland,” Monaghan said. “I want to make Dorothy my own.”

And audience members will not be disappointed if they come expecting to see something similar to the movie as Groves stated its very similar with even more scenes.

“The script follows the movie really well,” Groves said. “We are also adding the jitterbug scene that was edited from the movie.”

Michael Giachetti, 16, who will be playing the Scarecrow, says that he is enjoying the experience and thinks that their audiences will also enjoy the show.

“I think everything is coming along really well, and we are having fun” Giachetti said. “We've all been working hard, and I really think that it's going to be a great show.”

The show will be staged at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Tickets are $10. A special dinner and theater package is being offered for the Saturday night show for $22, which includes dinner before the show.

Marilyn Forbes is a freelance writer.

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