It will be his hairiest role ever.
As the lion in September Song's production of "The Wizard of Oz, " Chip Cotterman knows he will be hot, hot, hot.
This past week, during a rehearsal at Winters Mill High School, he was already sweating without wearing his full costume.
"I will be in an outfit that looks like your bathroom rug," Cotterman said, smiling.
"It's always fun," said the veteran of several September Song's productions. "I've just been learning the whole time."
After taking a year off to reorganize and raise funds — the group held a musical revue in 2011, but not a formal production — September Song is returning this coming week to what it does best, presenting musicals.
There are some changes, however. While past productions were held in September, "Oz" will be presented in August. And after several productions in South Carroll, the community theater troupe will return to Westminster with the production, to be held Aug. 17, 18, 19, 24 and 25 at Winters Mill High.
"It's where we originated," said Allen Cross, director of "Oz," of the move back to Westminster. "We bumped it back (to August). It worked better for everybody, the teachers in the cast and the kids."
There are 62 people in the cast — almost double the cast number of "Gypsy," the troupe's last production in 2010 and Cross' first as director. It has been a challenge, he admits, working with such a large cast of diverse ages.
"I feel bad because I don't know all the kids' names," he said. Despite everyone's different schedules and absences due to vacations, Cross is pleased with how the show is shaping up.
"We're in a really good position," he said. "We're ahead where we've been before, running the acts and not doing just pieces of the scenes."
Jocelyn Tuttle, of Baltimore, has the starring role of Dorothy in the production. Tuttle is happy to return to September Song after several years away.
"It's good to be back," Tuttle said. "I'm just having a ball with it. The cast is so much fun."
Richard Nestor said the group has a "home town" feel to it.
"They're good folks to work with," said Nestor, who has been in 10 Song productions. "When I joined, we were at Westminster High School. Now we're back (in Westminster). It's good.
An upcoming senior at North Carroll High School, Kendall Wagner, 17, has the roll of "head jitterbug."
"I bring all the jitterbugs out to make the leads dance," said Wagner, who tapped her way across the stage during rehearsal on Tuesday. "I like to dance, but I do like theater, too. It's a good amount of work."
As the lights dimmed on Tuesday's rehearsals, the cast was all smiles as they left for the night.
"It's a lot of work, and a lot of fun at the same time," Cross said."We're back."
September Song, will present "The Wizard of Oz," on Fridays and Saturdays, Aug. 17, 18, 24 and 25, at 8 p.m., with a Sunday matinee on Aug. 19, at 2:30 p.m. All performances are at Winters Mill High School, 560 Gorsuch Road, Westminster.
Tickets are $15 advance; $18 at the door. Children and students with ID are $8. Tickets available now at the Carroll Arts Center, 91 W. Main St., Westminster, or online at http://www.september-song.org.