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We’re off to see ‘The Wizard’ at Stars

What can you expect from a theatrical production of "The Wizard of Oz"?

"Overall, you get a little bit of everything as far as the theater world goes," said Marnie Forzetting, who choreographed the Stars show that opens Friday.

Forzetting worked with Amber O'Reilly to direct the show that the pair know backward and forward.

"I have always loved 'The Wizard of Oz,'" O'Reilly wrote in an email. "It has played a special role in my life, as I have played the leading role of Dorothy twice for BMT/Stars back in 1988 and 1994. I also jumped at the chance to direct with my good friend, Marnie! We both have directed and choreographed this show several times."

Fans of the beloved 1939 film will have plenty to enjoy with the adventures of farm girl Dorothy (Bella Stine) and her friends the Scarecrow (Josh Hefner), Tin Man (Matthew Barge) and the Lion (Mark Price) on their way to see the Wizard (Kevin McDonald), all while being aided by Glinda the good witch (Anne Marie O’Reilly) and pursued by the Wicked Witch of the West (Laurie Howlett).

And who could forget Toto, who dog lovers will be happy to know is played by the leading lady's own pup.

"Working with a real dog was a treat, as well," O'Reilly wrote. "We were blessed to have Bella’s own dog, Charlie, join the cast as Toto. He is a Shih Tzu mix that will melt your heart and his chemistry with Bella is remarkable in this show."

This is also an all-ages show with many in the cast in high school and junior high. The youngest performer is nearly 5-year-old Grayson Heber, who plays a munchkin alongside his sister, Evangeline.

"He's one of the little Lollipop Guild boys and you can tell he's the littlest one," Forzetting said. "This is the first production he’s ever done. His mom said he is so excited. He told me last night (at rehearsal) that he has the music in his head when he’s falling asleep."

O'Reilly said that she thinks the show has become even more popular thanks to the success of the musical "Wicked," a prequel tale about the two main witches in "Wizard."

She wrote, "Who doesn’t love the enthralling battle of a good witch vs. a bad witch? Both Laurie (wicked witch) and Anne Marie (Glinda) nail this rivalry to a T."

Speaking of magic, the show has all the wizardry you'd expect including the tornado that transports Dorothy from Kansas to Oz, the Wizard's grand show and the Wicked Witch and her flying monkeys.

"We have a very creative production staff," Forzetting said. "The special effects are exciting. It keeps you on the edge of your seat."

Both directors agree this show will leave audiences with a good feeling and an important message.

"While the show has the reputation of 'bubblegum' pop culture with its cartoon nature and culture cliches, if one chooses to look a little closer, to find a more meaningful message in its imagery, dialogue and beautiful music. It is clear as day ... don’t take your life for granted and appreciate all that you have been given. There really is no place like home."

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter: @realstefanidias.