Monday, 11 April 2016

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (The Wizard of Oz)

Dorothy (Amelia Calvert) rescues Scarecrow (Harry Apps) from the bothersome crows.  (Note it’s only Toto’s - AKA Toby’s - body double in the basket!)
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (The Wizard of Oz)

If you missed the recent StageSmart production of The Wizard of Oz at Cirencester’s Bingham Hall, then you missed a treat. However, if you were one of the nearly 1000 people who did attend on the 7th – 9th April then you will know that you witnessed a theatrical extravaganza of the highest quality.

Using a minimalist set, coupled with dramatic back projection, it effectively evoked both the wide open spaces of the Kansas prairie and the magical charm of the Emerald City, with the famed yellow brick road connecting front of house with the stage.  StageSmart founder Iwan Lewis, more than ably assisted by director Benn-Llewellyn Williams, choreographer Kelly-Marie Hook and musical supremos Isaac McCullough and Rudy Percival, created a visual and auditory feast.

StageSmart was set up to encourage children from five years upwards to develop their latent talent.  Iwan said recently that he believed there was an enormous amount of potential in the Cirencester area, which was clearly demonstrated in the performances they gave.  From the youngest, at just six years old, to the main characters ranging from thirteen to seventeen years, the whole cast pulled together to produce a memorable performance.  The starring role of Dorothy, was superbly played by 13 year old Amelia Calvert with a natural confidence beyond her years.

Harry Apps (16) as the Scarecrow was both convincing and entertaining, and seventeen year old James Lee (despite being a bit rusty) played the difficult role of the Tin Man with humour and maturity.  The clear audience favourite in this production, however, was the Cowardly Lion played by Ollie Humphries (17), who brought the character to life with comic false bravado in an endearing interpretation of the role.

Sixteen year old Iona Burston, who played the lead role of Constance in last summer’s musical the Clockmaker’s Daughter, took on the part of the Wicked Witch of the West with authority and menace, whilst Emma Perry (17), playing the good witch Glinda, sensitively counterbalanced this with traditional warm pink froth and kindness. 

The spectacular finale was the undoing of the Wizard of Oz, played by Scott Adams, whose brilliantly projected maniacal, despotic persona was exposed as a complete sham when they looked behind the curtain.  It all ended happily, as these stories should.
Never work with children and animals, they say, but the performances of the Munchkins and Toto the dog (Toby aged five) certainly disproved this adage!


Review by Carlo Vuolo and Jan Sparrow

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