The rehearsal facility for the Pied Piper Theatre was hopping on a recent evening as the company practiced for its upcoming production of “The Wizard of Oz.” The scene was a mix of order and chaos.
The 46 cast members, ages 8 to 18, most clad in green company T-shirts, were scurrying around the main room of the building on Euclid Avenue, adjusting costumes and warming up. Director Vince Worthington was calling instructions to his cast, and the 7-year-old Yorkshire terrier/poodle mix playing Toto was yapping intermittently.
Meanwhile, paint fumes and the sound of drills drifted from a back room where volunteers were assembling sets. At the other end of the building, a crew was working on costumes for the apple trees in the haunted forest.
“ ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is a pretty intense production, but most of the shows we do are pretty thorough,” Worthington said, Winkies chanting the familiar “O-ee-yah! Eoh-ah!” in the background. “You take the show you’re given. We like to challenge the kids.”
This is the company’s first appearance at the Hylton Performing Arts Center. Previous productions have been staged at local schools. So the cast, crew and volunteers are elevating every aspect of the presentation, said Anne Ridgway, the theater arts director at the Center for the Arts at the Candy Factory in Manassas, which sponsors the group.
Grace Klebine, 13, is playing Dorothy in her first appearance in a lead role with the group. Veterans Rebecca Parsons, 15, and Sarah Jane Scott, 17, are the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda, respectively. Parsons and Scott are accustomed to playing opposite each other, and enjoy it.
“I bring out the sass in her,” Parsons said, referring to how Scott’s normally sweet Glinda turns on the sarcasm when she goes toe-to-toe with the Wicked Witch.
Burke Romans-Murray, 14, is the Tin Man and Danny Waldman, 15, the Scarecrow. They said that at first they were intimidated by the dancing required for their roles, but they are ready to go after working with choreographer Kristine Worley (also the proud owner of Bella, playing Toto).
“There’s a lot of up-and-down, flimsy movement,” Waldman said. “It’s different because I usually dance quite stiffly, so it’s pulled me out of my shell, experimenting with my body.” Romans-Murray said he had never worn tap shoes before starting rehearsals for “Oz.”
Elaborate dance numbers (jitterbug, anyone?) and multiple costume changes aside, there’s also the pressure that comes from adapting a movie that pretty much everyone alive has seen many times. The size of the challenge is not lost on the young cast.
“It’s so intimidating because the characters are all so iconic,” said Wesley Diener, 17, who plays the Cowardly Lion. “Everyone has their image and their voice, so it’s hard to find your balance of what you’re going to do, but keep what people know, so they’ll enjoy it.”
Trevor Telez, 18, agreed, saying, “It’s a different kind of iconic. Other shows we do are classic Disney shows and everyone’s known them since they were kids, but this is a different level. It’s ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ ”
The Pied Piper Theatre, a division of the Center for the Arts at the Candy Factory, presents “The Wizard of Oz” at 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday at the Hylton Performing Arts Center, 10960 George Mason Cir., Manassas. Tickets are $12; $10 for children 10 and under. Call 703-330-2787 or visit www.hyltoncenter.org.