Local Munchkins join show

On the big stage: Aspire students learn choreography, music

January 7, 2011 

About a dozen students from Aspire Middle School in Lacey will sing and dance to "Follow the Yellow Brick Road," "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" and other classic tunes when "The Wizard of Oz" takes the stage Saturday at The Washington Center for the Performing Arts.

The show’s national production company typically casts children ages 8-13 as Munchkins and Winkies from dance, theater and music schools in communities along its tour. The characters are little people who live in the Land of Oz.

“It’s really exciting; I’ve been in plays before, but never in such a big production,” said Marly Andrews, 13, a seventh-grader at Aspire, a magnet school with an emphasis on performing arts. “I’ve never gotten to work with professionals before.”

Because the touring company provides costumes, only children who are less than 5 feet tall or weigh less than 100 pounds are eligible to audition for the musical.

“That eliminated most of our students,” said Chris Traber, Aspire’s drama and dance instructor.

The 14 students who fit the bill – 12 cast members and two understudies – have been rehearsing at least nine hours a week, including during the holidays and after school. In addition to learning music and choreography, the students had to memorize stage positions for three scenes and the finale.

“They are on stage for so many special effects of the show,” Traber said. “They are on stage when the Wicked Witch melts, and when she arrives with fireworks.”

The kids will undergo three costume changes during the show, transforming from Munchkins to Winkies and then back to Munchkins.

Their call time on Saturday is 9:30 a.m., and the first curtain will rise at 2 p.m.

“We have a very detailed schedule with costume fittings and rehearsals,” Traber said. “There’s one day to put this all together.”

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