Horizon West Theater Company goes down the Yellow Brick Road

The Horizon West Theater Company will stage its first production of “The Wizard of Oz” — and has some unique surprises in store.

Every projection for the play changes based on the scene that’s taking place. When in Kansas, projections and characters are all in sepia, but when they arrive to Oz, the colors come to life and become as vivid as they can be.
Every projection for the play changes based on the scene that’s taking place. When in Kansas, projections and characters are all in sepia, but when they arrive to Oz, the colors come to life and become as vivid as they can be.
Photo by Andrea Mujica
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The Horizon West Theater Company will host its very first production of “The Wizard of Oz” at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 27, and Saturday, Jan. 28, in the Lakeview Middle School auditorium. 

“I had choreographed a couple of Horizon West Theater plays before, and when they asked me to direct, I really wanted to choose a show that could get as many kids involved as possible,” Wizard of Oz Director Kristi Hill said. “That was exactly what I was excited about, ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is written so you can do it with a small cast, but we were able to add dancers and add people to each of the numbers, so we kind of turned every small number into a big production to allow more kids to become involved and get featured in different ways.” 

With 28 spots open during the audition process, the production provided availability for eight 4- to 6-year-olds who wished to audition and be a part of the play — the Horizon West Theater Shining Stars — and even had people on the waiting list.

For a lot of the children that are part of the cast, this is the first time they are getting on stage and performing in front of an audience.
Photo by Andrea Mujica            

Lilly Belle Lanese, 9, has been with the Horizon West Theater Company for two-and-one-half years. She auditioned for the roles of the Scarecrow, Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion. She will be portraying the Cowardly Lion this upcoming weekend. 

“I am very excited to see how the audience reacts to me and my friends’ (acting),” she said. “(I’m excited) to being me and being the little lion that I am because … (everyone in ) the cast is so tall, and then all of the sudden, you have this little lion busting out these songs, and I feel the audience is going to be like, ‘She’s so tiny.’” 

This is 11-year-old Eliana Iridarry’s second year as part of the theater cast, and she is loving portraying Dorothy on stage so far.

“I strove to be Dorothy,” she said. “One thing that’s unique (about Dorothy that I bring in) is my glasses.  Dorothy doesn’t wear glasses — and I also put a lot of energy into my lines.” 

The cast is looking forward to transporting the audience to a never-seen-before whimsical journey to the colorful City of Oz.
Photo by Andrea Mujica

According to Eliana’s mom, Crystal, the role of Dorothy has provided Eliana with an opportunity to learn how to open up and use her voice because of the hard work everyone in the theater puts in to help every child in the production. 

“They have worked so hard with the children, teaching them and helping them get out of their shells,” Crystal said. “They are just a great team to be a part of; they really help the kids, and they are very positive.”

One of the unique twists Hill is most excited about presenting in this version of “The Wizard of Oz” is how whimsical it is. 

“One of the things that really inspired me as director was the fact of taking it to a fantastical world that would allow us to exit our daily life and go into a fantasy,” she said. “So that was part of my production design, I wanted everything in Kansas to be very linear and straight, but once we go to Oz, it is really like we went through the rabbit hole.” 

Broadway Media, a mission-driven company that aspires to help those who want to become involved in the theater world at an affordable cost, offering screening projections, stage screens, stage projections, among others, is providing the projections for the play.

“Everything is bigger and rounder and fantastical,” Hill said. “So we really went on not trying to take a conventional take on everything, but we looked for the most whimsical way we can do this … almost like transporting into a different place — not just Oz — but a very specific Oz, where it’s lighthearted and very much like a cartoon, a whimsical version of ‘The Wizard of Oz.’”

A few key elements that make this play unique also include the fact that Dorothy notices herself going from sepia to color, Glinda wears a Maria Antoinette inspired gown with a pink wig, and the trees — or tree belles as they are called at the theater — wear hoop skirts. 

Rehearsing is always the hardest part, and getting the children to learn their parts also can be challenging. But, since the auditions took place last September and the roles were revealed, the cast has been practicing Thursdays and Saturdays every week for a couple of hours each day. 

“The thing that’s most especial about these kids is that the majority are new cast performers,” Hill said. “They are excited to learn; they are like little sponges. … (although) they may be young and new, with the costumes and the setting — and the projections from Broadway Media— we were able to put them in this professional quality production that they have gotten to embrace. They are eager to learn, ready to listen, and it’s been fun to see how young they are and watch them fall in love with theater.” 

The set of the play would not be complete without all the volunteers that have spent hours building every prompt that is needed for decoration. 

All costumes for the play were designed by Jana Magnusson and made by Holly Hicks.
Photo by Andrea Mujica

“We have an amazing production team,” Hill said. “This year, we realized we needed more volunteers. We introduced our new internship program, and we have two performance interns and one stage management intern. … No one involved in this production is getting compensated in any way, (all volunteers) have dedicated hundreds of hours every week, just because they love the kids and they love theater.” 

Hill hopes the children come away from the experience with lessons that will service them throughout their lives and their acting careers.

“They have really worked together,” she said. “When they put in that effort and sacrifice, they were able to produce and create something amazing. And I see it even in our final rehearsals, leading up to (the performance), that energy and excitement, we’ve made something really special.”


Founded in 2018, the Horizon West Theater Company has one mission — “to connect our community by encouraging participation in all aspects of theatrical production, providing arts education and inspiring performing artists and volunteers to create quality theater arts.” 

The organization works as a nonprofit, and all who are part of it are volunteers who donate their time and efforts to creating theater magic. 

Currently, the productions at the company are pay for play, and the cost is $425 for all performances and rehearsals. 

The Horizon West Theater Company currently has no home base, and is looking to set roots in the upcoming years in a place they can — in the future — call home, and offer theater performance opportunities for everyone in the community.



Andrea Mujica

Staff writer Andrea Mujica covers sports, news and features. She holds both a bachelor's degree in journalism and an MBA from the University of Central Florida. When she’s not on the sidelines, you can find Andrea coaching rowers at the Orlando Area Rowing Society in Windermere.

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