With Dorothy played by a sixth-grader and the munchkins by small fourth-graders, one-third of Cincinnati's School for the Creative and Performing Arts has come to the National Theater to perform "The Wiz," the first school group ever invited to perform by the theater.

But age certainly doesn't determine professionalism. Twelve-year-olds were screaming directions to union workers Wednesday morning during the final stages of their set's construction.

"Up 13, and down 18," commanded a blue-jeaned ninth-grader while atop a ladder, where she moved a light and replaced a gel.

Three weeks ago, the school was invited to the National Theater. Initially the trip seemed as possible as finding the Wizard of Oz. It was up to the school to raise enough money -- about $85,000 -- to cover the cost of the trip and its production.But the school has received about $67,000 from private citizens, the Baldwin Co. and other Cincinnati corporations in the last few weeks.

The school was started in 1973 with fewer than 90 students and has changed its location three times. The Cincinnati school board doesn't exactly budget for blinking-lighted wiz machines -- or for the cost of hand-sewn yellow brick roads.