"Jade is the Wiz. Jade is this show. When I talked about picking shows for kids, she was one of the main kids I thought of when I picked this show," he said. "You only get someone like her every so often in your program. Unique, fun character, fun person, really interesting, great singer -- just makes you proud to teach and know her."
Despite all the spin, Jones is nervous about her prospects.
"I'm auditioning for Dorothy and Evillene [The Wicked Witch of the West]. I want to go for Dorothy, but I feel like it's a risk. It's out of my vocal range. I see myself as an alto. Dorothy is a soprano," she said. "Also, Dorothy is a 14-year-old girl. She's not that big. She's very small."
Jones is about 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighs more than 200 pounds. Her mother, Kim Butler-Dennis, thinks she has a better chance to win a lead as Evillene.
"In my mind, I have Dorothy as this petite little girl. I think you best fit Evillene," she told her daughter. "That's what I saw you doing."
Those thoughts provoke a protest from Jones.
"She's a 14-year-old girl, but I was big when I was 14," she said. "I mean, there are big 14-year-old girls out there. I don't think it should have to do with size."
Inside the auditorium, a group of girls gathers around 16-year-old Claire Manship, known as "the Belter," as they practice "As Soon As I Get Home," the Dorothy audition song. Manship hopes to pursue a career in musical theater and has been training intensively in both voice and dance.
"Me, personally, I'm very musically inclined," she said. "I think singing is definitely my strong point. Whether I bring the most to it or not will be what the directors do after audition. They have to determine who's the best of the best."
Manship is a seasoned performer and is used to pre-performance pressure. Last summer, she won the title role as Gabriella in a summer production of "High School Musical."
"Naturally I have the jitters in my stomach, but it's more excitement than nervousness. My first audition in freshmen year, I thought I might cry or vomit," she remembered.
She admits that with so many talented kids, the competition can get intense.
"It gets really, really competitive since we have so many people in the department. You want to keep it as light and free feeling as possible," Manship said. "You don't want to pressure anybody because you feel better than them or they feel they're better than you. Going into 'The Wiz' I was dying for Dorothy. I wanted it more than anything."
As the girls walk in for their auditions, Pafumi begins explaining the motivation for their character.
"The classic Dorothy is a story about the journey of a girl's growing up, self discovery of who she is, learning that life, home, heart and family is what's most important in life. It's a coming of age story," he told the group. "It's not a traditional love story in the sense of a romantic love story, but a story of love. And discovering who you love and that love will guide you back home."
The girls exchange smiles and nervous glances as Manship steps forwards and begins to sing.
Who do you think will be cast as Dorothy? Watch the audition clips and vote for your choice.