Ten-year-old Jennifer Andersen emerges from a darkened section of the auditorium to take the stage, where she begins warming her voice for her audition to be a flying monkey or a Munchkin in "The Wizard of Oz."
In a clear and soft voice, the fifth-grader begins, "Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high, there's a land that I've heard of, once in a lullaby. . . ."
Jennifer and her 7-year-old sister, Jocelyn, were among the more than 100 children, ages 7 through 12, who sang and danced in Alumni Hall at Western Maryland College over the weekend, hoping for a part in the Theatre on the Hill production.
"Dorothy -- Judy Garland -- is one of their idols," says their mother, Joyce Andersen. "They bothlike 'The Wizard of Oz.' "
The girls attend St. John's School in Westminster. Jocelyn is a second-grader and Jennifer a fifth-grader. Both have tried out for parts in productions of "The Sound of Music" and "Annie," but neither has been picked before.
When asked why she chose to audition, Jennifer says, "I think I sing really well, and I wanted to have fun."
Her sister admits being "a little nervous" while waiting for her chance to sing "Lullaby League and Lollipop Guild," also from "The Wizard of Oz," for her audition.
"I think Mom is more nervous than she is," Joyce says.
Cassie Domser, a West Middle School sixth-grader, has finished her audition for one of 15 parts for children in the production. Adult auditions -- for Dorothy, the Scarecrow and the others -- will be conducted later this month.
"I'm here for the fun of it," says the 11-year-old, who performed in a production of "The King and I" when she was 6.
Getting the part of a Munchkin, a flying monkey or a jitterbug would be fine for Cassie.
"They want kids to be Munchkins so they will be smaller than Dorothy," she says.
As a second group of children enter the Alumni Theater, Ira Domser, Cassie's father and the play's co-director and producer, rises from his auditorium seat and explains the process.
He is looking for not only monkeys and Munchkins, but also citizens ofOz, poppies and "other things as needed." Fifteen children will perform four specific chorus parts with "lots of costume changes," he says.
During her audition, Cassie joined 10 other children on stage for "dancing, singing and recitation." At the direction of Jean Burgess, the production's co-director and choreographer, the children jitterbugged across the stage.
There were warm-ups first,though. Following Burgess, the children raised their arms up and down and shook their hands. They took deep breaths.
"Smile," Burgess says. "We want to see lots of energy. We want to see lots of craziness. If you feel a little bit shy, forget that."
The jitterbug is unfamiliar to thechildren. That production number was cut from the 1939 MGM film. More or less, the children follow Burgess with four steps to the right,four steps to the left. Their index fingers wiggle in the air. The lines become uneven as the children jump back and forward several steps, clapping and adding a few Charleston steps.
When the dance routine is finished, Robin Friedman, a Westminster High School freshman, leaves the line to sit Indian-style at the edge of the stage. She warms her voice and then sings "Happy Birthday."
She then hums, at direction, "My Country 'Tis of Thee."
Another child follows, but thevoice is inaudible.
When the first round is completed sometime after 11 a.m., only a handful of children are asked to stick around to recite nursery rhymes. Jennifer and Jocelyn, who have not danced yet, have been asked to stay as well.
"I want you to tell me your favorite nursery rhyme," Domser says.
Twelve-year-old Ashley Eichhornrecites, "Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down. . . ."
The West Middle School seventh-grader, wearing a "Les Miserables" sweat shirt, is hoping for the part of a Munchkin or a flying monkey. She has performed in other productions, including "Annie" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
"I really enjoy acting a lot," the Finksburg resident says. "I think I did OK today. After every audition, you want to do it over again."
In a loud and clear voice, Ashley sang "You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile," from the Broadway musical "Annie."
"I've been in plays before but they haven't had a play here for children in a while," she says.
Robin recited "Humpty Dumpty" for Domser and his staff.
"Ever since I saw the first production here, I've always wanted to be in one," the 14-year-old Westminster resident says. "I love acting. I've been toother auditions, and I've been at summer camp for theater.
"I think I did well," she adds.
Brian Osborne of Hampstead decided to audition for the play because he has seen the movie a few times and thought it would be a fun thing to do. When he was in third grade, he performed in "The Nutcracker."
"I like to sing, and I had a singing part," he says.
He wants a singing part in "The Wizard of Oz" -- preferably that ofa Munchkin. For his audition, he sang "Consider Yourself," a song from "Oliver."
Seven-year-old Lauren Nesbitt of Hampstead wants to be a flying monkey.
Waiting in the auditorium, the first-grader did not have much to say about her audition, but admitted she liked to sing and dance.
Second-grader Melina Sharkey, whosestage name is "Kristeen," was waiting for a chance to take the stageand sing "Poor Unfortunate Souls," from "The Little Mermaid." She performed in a first-grade play at Westminster Elementary School.
She says she did not have her heart set on any particular part.
"My dad wanted me to try out," she says.
Plans are for "The Wizard of Oz" to be performed in late July. Children will know whether they have parts in a week or so, says Coleen Foley, an Owings Mill resident who is stage manager for the production.
She expects that some children will be called back for further auditions. It's a decision, though, Domser hasn't made yet.
"I think things are going well," she says. "You can tell the kids are nervous. They're trying to sell themselves as best they can.
"So far, I haven't seen anybody that really stands out. There are kids here who have done stuff before, and others who haven't done a thing."