Editor's note: Reporter Brenda Rindge has followed students and teachers at the Charleston County School of the Arts since October, when they had their first rehearsal of their production of "The Wiz."

Rehearsals started in November with the screech of an unexplained fire alarm that wouldn't stop blaring.

The first show opened 20 minutes late because the bus drivers who took students from the Charleston County School of the Arts to see their classmates perform at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center didn't know they were supposed to make two trips.

But in the end, it was worth the effort, judging by the standing ovation from a nearly packed house bestowed upon the cast and crew of the school's inaugural production of "The Wiz" on Wednesday.

"There has been a lot of laughter and a lot of tears," said director Megan Link.

After untold hours of set construction, costume creation, rehearsals for dancers, singers and musicians, lots of worrying about everything from funding to learning lines, it all came together.

"This really has been an effort of the whole school," Link said. "It has been a lot of work for everyone involved. Sometimes we wonder why we do it, but then we look around and we know."

Planning for "The Wiz" started before the school year opened, with faculty members assigned to committees, such as set construction, poster design and publicity. As soon as students returned, they were drawn into the frenzy. More than 200 auditioned for fewer than 80 parts. Students created yellow-brick roads from notepaper to line the hallways. They entered a poster design contest, sold Entertainment books to fund the production and dressed as Wiz characters on Halloween.

Jan. 14 saw a School of the Arts first, as actors and musicians paraded through the hallways and guided the entire student body to a small stage in an open field, where principal players led the first pep rally at a school that has no athletic teams.

And meanwhile, life went on. Seniors put the finishing touches on their theses, a requirement for an SOA diploma, and applied to college. Everyone worked other auditions, performances, jobs, and homework when they weren't at rehearsal.

On Wednesday, the entire student body, students from a handful of other Charleston County schools and some members of the community filed into the Performing Arts Center and, with the exception of the bus delay, the show came off without a hitch.

From solos to production numbers to live orchestra music, the show was first-rate and the audience was appreciative.

"I just love the way this school comes together to support each other," said teacher Bill Smyth afterward. "The students in the audience were so encouraging of their classmates on stage. It really makes you feel good to be part of it."

IF YOU GO

The Charleston County School of the Arts' production of "The Wiz" will be presented today at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. General-admission tickets for matinee are $5 for students and $10 for adults, with one free adult ticket for every 10 students. The evening performance is $10 for seniors and students and $15 for adults, or 10 tickets for $120.

Visit the school's web site and click on "The Wiz" on the left side of the page to order tickets.