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Whistler Secondary is off to see the Wizard

Twin sisters, Chantal and Cassidy Deane, share the stage as Dorothy and the Wicked Witch

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And you thought your sibling rivalry was intense.

Grade 12 Whistler Secondary School (WSS) students, and twins, Chantal and Cassidy Deane will not only be sharing the spotlight in next week's production of the L. Frank Baum classic, The Wizard of Oz, but they'll be playing virtually opposite characters, with Chantal filling the lead role of Dorothy, and Cassidy donning all black as the Wicked Witch of the West.

Running from March 6 to 8 at Millennium Place, the high-school production is largely based on the Warner Bros. musical that was released in theatres 75 years ago. Still, three quarters of a century later and theatre teacher Sandra Droulis feels the classic tale of Dorothy's journey to the magical Emerald City resonates with teens in 2014.

"There's a lot of humour in it the kids really appreciate," she says. "Especially with the Cowardly Lion, and the Wizard, and how bumbly he is and the fact that he's not a very efficient wizard after all."

Something of a swan song for Grade 12 students moving onto post-secondary opportunities next fall, the play was moved up to March this year to free up some room on the schedule for seniors heading into the busy exam season in the spring. The 51-member cast and crew all earn a full credit for taking part in the production, but the students get so much more out of the experience than what's listed on a report card, according to Droulis.

"In general it builds the kids' confidence and it's an outlet for creativity," she says, adding that she plans to start a dance program at the high school next year. "We even have a few kids that took theatre here over the last couple of years that I've written reference letters for that have decided to pursue it outside of school, or are going to theatre school next year."

This will mark the third school play that Chantal has been a part of, and she credits the theatre program for helping to build up her confidence. And with Cassidy joining the cast for the first time, she said it's been a comfort to have her sister share the stage.

"Last year when I was in the musical, my sister wasn't. Especially because we spend so much time together, it's nice to get her to understand what I'm going through with the play," says Chantal. "Instead of just going to see the play once, and that being it, she actually gets to take the journey with me."

Of course, the journey down the yellow brick road doesn't come without it's bumps and bruises, and it's no secret that Dorothy and the Wicked Witch don't exactly enjoy the smoothest of relationships.

Cassidy admits she has to work hard to get into character, "because I like to think I'm not naturally a mean person," but she'll be drawing on some real-world experience in a handful of scenes with her sister.

"There are a few scenes where I have to yell at (Chantal) onstage and it's pretty funny," Cassidy says. "Sometimes she makes me angry, so I just think of the things that make me mad and then I yell at her."

Relating to her role is a little bit easier for Chantal, for obvious reasons.

"Dorothy is a little bit naïve and people often tell me I act a little young for my age, so I can relate to her in that sense," she says. "She's also a really big animal lover with her dog Toto, and I love dogs."

The cast will also perform a matinee show for local elementary students, giving them a taste of what's to come at Whistler Secondary if they choose to join the theatre program, something more and more kids have been doing since the school began putting on the production for Myrtle Philip and Spring Creek students three years ago, Droulis says.

"The matinee is partly for the elementary kids to get a sense of what they'll be doing or what they can't do at the high school, as well as giving the older students a sense of what it's like to perform for people other than their friends or family coming to the show," she says.

With any luck, Chantal hopes her performance as the pigtailed, red-shoe-clicking Dorothy will serve as inspiration for other aspiring young thespians before they take to the Millennium Place stage years from now.

"I know when I was younger I was really scared and I didn't even do one play until two years ago," Chantal says. "I definitely came out of my shell because I had so much support from all the other castmates, so I'm hoping I can inspire at least one kid to take that step and continue on this journey so that maybe they'll get the lead when they're in Grade 12."

The Wizard of Oz runs from March 6 to 8 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12, available at the box office or online at www.artswhistler.com.

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