Off to see the Wizard: Triumvirate's Class Act opens popular musical

Posted: Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Monday night dress rehearsal of Triumvirate Theatre's "The Wizard of Oz," was typical chaos for the children's theater group.

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Photo By Brielle Schaeffer
Photo By Brielle Schaeffer
Lily Arnett, who plays Dorothy, wishes for a place "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" at a rehearsal for Triumvirate Theatre's musical "The Wizard of Oz" earlier this week.

Five-year-old munchkins ran around the small auditorium in Soldotna's Peninsula Center Mall in their colorful handmade costumes while lights were set and audio cues scripted.

"You need to be facing the audience so they can see your beautiful faces and not butts," theater board member Paulene Rizzo instructed the young actors through a burst of giggles. "Or else somebody might whistle and say, 'what a cute bum.'"

The older performers, members of the theater's Class Act troupe, moved set pieces, tried on costumes and did vocal warm-ups while props were finished and final details placed for the opening tonight.

Amidst all the mayhem one thing was for certain--the players were not in Kansas, or even Alaska, anymore.

"There's kind of a fun escapism in fantasy stories like 'Wizard of Oz,'" said director and Triumvirate Theatre President Joe Rizzo.

"I think that it's a great musical for both kids and adults," he added. "Kids can get into the whole make-believe world of it."

But what the audience will not have to make believe are the beautiful costumes, colorful sets or even Dorothy's dog "Toto," played by Rizzo's family Sheltie named Lucky.

"Having live animals in a play always adds an element of challenge to a production," Rizzo said.

One piece of advice he gave to Lily Arnett, who plays Dorothy, in working with the pup was to be prepared for anything.

"You never know what could happen," he said.

That seems to be a mantra for all live drama but it's something Triumvirate's Class Act troupe is getting to know firsthand.

Class Act is an audition-only group of eight student actors that perform a few times throughout the year. Half of all the proceeds from the troupe's performances go into scholarship funds and if the actors stick with the group for at least three years they receive the money.

"This is a acting troupe of teenage kids that are really dedicated they've spent a lot of hours," said the musical's assistant director Shannon Sorenesen.

"Coming out to this is not only a good family fun thing to do but also funds a good cause which goes towards their education," she said. "It's not like it goes into somebody's coffers never to be seen again, for the glory of the Triumvirate Theatre. It's for them."

Arnett, a 15-year-old home-schooled student who lives in Nikiski, said she loves being involved in Class Act.

"I wanted to be in it because I'd get to do more plays and acting and I'd never really gotten the chance to before," she said. Her first play was Class Act's performance of "My Fair Lady" last year in which she played the lead, Eliza Doolittle.

As for playing Dorothy, Arnett said she's excited about the ruby red slippers and trying to mimic actress Judy Garland, who played Dorothy in the 1939 film.

"I sort of adopted Judy Garland's voice," she said. "I watched the movie once and got her voice. I was really happy I can talk like her."

Rizzo said it's amazing to him how much Arnett sounds like Garland.

"She's got that Dorothy part down really, really well," he said.

And the munchkins aren't doing that bad either.

"They are as cute as can be," Rizzo said.

Nikiski North Star Elementary teacher and Rizzo's wife Paulene recruited the 13 munchkins and they span from kindergarten to third grade.

While not part of the Class Act troupe, the munchkins are learning from the production as well as being exposed to the theater arts.

"I just try and do my best," said 9-year-old munchkin Emily Hightower.

And that's a similar lesson Dorothy, the Lion, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man learn after traveling the yellow brick road to Oz.

Rizzo said the moral of the play is to appreciate what you have, and Triumvirate's "The Wizard of Oz," really takes that message to the next level--work with what you've got and be ready for anything.

Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at

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