"Toto, I don't think we're in high school anymore!" With their colorful interpretation of Frank Baum's classic tale, the recent production of "The Wizard of Oz" at River Hill High School transported us over the rainbow to a place where witches, munchkins and other animated characters dwell and where "dreams really do come true."

The performance closely followed the cherished story, and the lively rendition of a well-known fantasy brought down the house (Dorothy's, that is).

Sarah Ezzat as Dorothy and Chloe Land (the director's dog) as Toto take us on the journey of a Kansas girl who felt misunderstood by her Aunt Em (Chloe Scott) and Uncle Henry (David Nix). She is hit on the head during a twister and finds herself face to face with the witty yet fiendish Wicked Witch of the West (Emily Woodhouse). Dorothy and her "new" friends, the Scarecrow (Alex Fast), the Tin Man (Robbie Metzbower) and the Cowardly Lion (Andrew Boetcher) go on their quest for brains, a heart, courage and a way back home. After many obstacles and some assistance from the Wizard (Gabe Fremuth), they realize that their pursuits are unnecessary, for their desires weren't any farther than their "own back yard."

Judy Garland, who played Dorothy in the 1930s "Oz" movie, would have been proud. Ezzat's performance as Dorothy was true to the role. The Lion, who sang about being king of the forest, was also the king of comedy. It is no wonder that the Tin Man felt he was missing something -- he sang his heart out all the way through the show. Likewise, the Scarecrow lighted the theater with his energy while portraying a hilariously distinctive character. The foursome's mission to see the Wizard was thoroughly enjoyable.

The Wizard complemented the lead roles with his comedic sense of timing. Nikko (Eric Haaser), the head monkey, and Glinda (Sarah Randolph), the Good Witch of the North, virtually flew through their scenes despite a minor timing issue here and there. Several members of the ensemble were particularly strong, boosting the energy level during choral numbers.

The sets were simple, yet effective, though the Emerald City lacked a real magical quality. The use of special effects and technical gadgetry, however, did wonders for bringing the characters alive.

Timeless tunes, memorable characters and a beloved story made "The Wizard of Oz" a musical the whole family could enjoy.

Jennie Gold

Atholton High School

The Critics and Awards Program, known as the Cappies, has operated for several years in the Washington region. This is the third year for the Cappies program in Howard County. Students not only produce and perform in the plays but also write reviews, a number of which have been published in the Extra.

Michelle Shankar, left, who was Dorothy on Saturday afternoon, talks with Maggie Trexler, 5, after the play.