It's a very special production of 'The Wizard of Oz', as more than 20 young performers take to the stage, many of them for the first time.

12-year-old Austin Taylor is one of them.

"I was thinking about auditioning for a while, and always saying should I or should I not? I thought why not, there was nothing to lose, so I stepped forward and auditioned and I am really happy that I did now."

Austin says he was more than happy to give up his summer holidays to learn more about theatre.

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"I had no idea about singing for example, I'm a mezzo. I had no clue what that meant, so in terms of singing, I've learnt a lot about that."

Tauranga Musical Theatre President Elise Rohde says more than 60 children between the ages of 10-18 auditioned to be a part of the cast.

In 2010, the theatre implemented an initiative to grow their youth membership. Since then, hundreds of young performers have featured in their productions.

Bella Wright, who will take on the role of Dorothy, says she feels at home in the theatre.

"If I wasn't doing something like this, I don't know what I'd be doing. Seeing so many other people pursuing things like this is just awesome."

The cast is in the final stage of rehearsals before opening night.

"The passion for the arts is quite incredible in this region," says Ms Rohde, "so our calibre is very high and we are very lucky because of that.

"As with any job, any career, you need people coming up behind you to carry on your legacy, if you will, and the kids - that is where the answer lies."

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