The Wizard of Oz

When asked how the dress rehearsal had gone, the ever diplomatic Eve McKeown replied “It wasn’t as amazing as we had hoped.” By the time I got to see the production on the final night, it truly was amazing...

The show began with the Year 3 farmhands busily toiling away. Aunt Em’s (Natalie Ray) excellent accent made us feel that we really were in Kansas. Scarily early in the play Dorothy, the supremely talented Grace Addison, was required to give a solo rendition of ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’ as she wished for a better life. She sang it with aplomb and the audience knew that they were in for another very special Taylor and Wrightson production. 

To help Dorothy achieve her goal, the Sorceress of the North (Anna Bray) took to the stage and delivered a breath-taking monologue a la Joanna Lumley. Transforming the stage into Oz was a wonderfully complicated operation carried out in the dark by numerous children and a suitably attired Mrs. Taylor. Having finally arrived in Oz, a huge tribe of Munchkins appeared on stage bedecked in extremely colourful outfits featuring various sizes of button, along with various accents. The deep voiced, purple clad, mayor (Olivia Corbishley) received the news from the farmer (Jack Holt-Stott, pleasingly wearing wellies) that the surprisingly long-legged Wicked Witch of the East had shuffled off Oz’s mortal coil. The Sorceress returned 
to the stage to show that she is a talented singer too. The Year 3 and 4 chorus then made their first appearance with an action filled rendition of ‘Ding dong the witch is dead’.   
On a hot evening, the hall felt decidedly cooler with the arrival of the Wicked Witch of the West (Emily Hetherington). The cackling Emily clearly revelled in her role. Having stood patiently on stage for a long time, Scarecrow (Yolanda Wilkinson) burst into life. The audience winced as she fell dramatically to the floor numerous times whilst learning how to use her legs. Having mastered walking she trotted off down the yellow brick road alongside Dorothy. 
There were audible gasps when the Tin Man (Samuel Antoine) took to the stage. Samuel combined a perfect costume (courtesy of a B&M camping mat) with perfect acting. His rendition of ‘If I only had a heart’ was one of many highlights. As the three companions continued to follow the yellow bricks there were numerous tantalising glimpses of the Emerald City due to a painted sheet adamantly refusing to stay in place.  
Another scene stealing performance came shortly after with the entry of Rosie Airey as the Lion. Both her acting and make-up were wonderful. The reviewer wondered what films her parents had allowed her to watch, as Rosie’s accent was straight out of The Bronx. In the final scene of the first half the Jitterbugs (Year 4 girls) took to the stage to perform a dance with the gang of four that was exhausting to watch, let alone perform. 
After the interval Harry Ewbank (First General) and William Parmenter (Private) channelled their inner Dad’s Army before the visiting witches (Eve McKeown and Connie Clutterbuck-Riley) joined Emily Hetherington for a spooky party that included a ghoulish bop to Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’. Christopher Iredale was wonderfully cast as Tibia the butler. An amusing piece of artistic license saw Eve McKeown exit stage left on a vacuum cleaner.   
The Wizard himself (Freddie Bloomer) boomed out his orders from on high (who knew they spoke like that in Omaha?) before the four friends worked together to dispose of the Wicked Witch of the West. This led to wild celebrations throughout the whole of Munchkinland. Dorothy’s solo reprise of the first verse of ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’ left barely a dry eye in the house. She was joined by the rest of the cast for a wonderful finale to a thoroughly enjoyable evening that had involved every pupil in Years 3, 4, 5 and 6. Bravo!   

Mr P. Sturgess Theatre by the Lake 

in Arts & Culture

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