Saturday, 18 June 2016

"The Wizard Of Oz" by Bright Lights Theatre School
Loughborough Town Hall.

They say never work with children and animals. Well I am so pleased that producers Nick Sutcliffe and Patrick Croft didn't listen to that age old adage. This is a production of mammoth proportions with a cast of youngsters numbering over seventy on stage. And may I say, one of the best children's mass ensembles I have seen in the theatre.

I'm not going to precis the story of "The Wizard Of Oz" because you know it so I'm going to concentrate on the rest of it. This production alone has cost £23,000 to stage which shows the following this theatre group have because it's the paying audiences who have funded this not for profit drama group. it also shows the work that has gone into this show.

It has an old style MGM musical feel about it and this comes across with the ensemble singing as well as the dance routines, choreographed by Nick Sutcliffe and Zoe Curlett

The excellent cinematography and special effects, the clarity of the music, under the musical direction of Zoe Curlett and James Nelson, the brilliant costumes and make up, the props and scenery all added to the total professionalism for the audience and made the experience of these young actors something very special. A very talented technical team and directed by Alex Turner, which could not have been easy due to the size of the cast.

Let's talk about these young, and extremely talented actors. There are some really young actors who may well have been debuting in "Oz" here and carried themselves so professionally. Every single one of those youngsters delivered everything that they were asked to deliver, some even more, which I'll get on to shortly.

Normally an actor may stand out for the wrong reasons when in ensemble work, but they were all outstanding for all the right reasons. For putting on an amazing show.

I must though mention a few that really made me sit up even more than I was.

Amy Carter, who played Dorothy was so very confident in the main role. her accent remained constantly Kansas throughout, unwavering, and she had wonderful characterization in Dorothy. Being in charge of Toto, her dog, who was played by Lacey, can sometimes lead (if you'll pardon the pun) to unpredictability and Amy crossed these bridges with great control and maturity.

Munchkin Mayor was another character who caught my eye. Played by Zack Page, here is another very confident young man with just the right projection in his voice and a feel for the role. it may have only been a minor role but he made it his own and was wonderful in it.

They were all stars on stage but one actor, and I really didn't want to spotlight anyone in particular, but I'm afraid he has forced my hand through his utter professionalism and, whether he realised it or not, his ability to ad lib just right, was Daniel Johnson in the dual role as Hunk and The Scarecrow. His natural ability, character and comedy, as well as his timing were lovely to see in such a young actor, but there were two things he did tonight that gained my absolute respect.

There was a scene where the Emerald City Guard was due to come down from an upstairs window to let The Scarecrow, Tinman, Cowardly Lion and Dorothy in and he took just a bit longer to appear. Daniel took it upon himself to ad lib while Stefan Bos, as the guard, made his way into the scene.

The second was when one of the characters stumbled slightly on a line and Daniel prompted his fellow actor for the line. What a real pro. i have seen professionals stumble and fluff lines so it can happen to anyone but it is how you, and your fellow actor, recover and cover, and this lot were just totally professional to the letter. Daniel will go far in acting with that sort of professionalism mindset and discipline. All this plus he has a very controlled singing voice and a lovely, distinctiveness about his singing.

Don't you just hate it when you get kids this age who are so incredibly talented? i'm so jealous.

The rest of the main cast, who were just as incredibly disciplined, and talented were Lydia Bird (Aunt Em), Rafael Duarte (Uncle Henry), Madison Ditta (Hickory/Tinman), Zara Platts (Zeke/Lion), Ella Rose Gadd (Miss Gultch/Wicked Witch of The West), Samuel Beckett (Professor Marvel/ Wizard Of Oz) and Beth York (Glinda).

I'd love to mention all seventy-nine of you by name, but that is what a programme/playbill is for, so if you go and see this show, buy a programme, because that all helps as well. You can all feel very proud of yourselves, and that includes all the people involved behind the scenes.

"The Wizard Of Oz" is only on until Sunday 19 June 2016, but would make a brilliant Father's Day present. Truly wicked (you know what I mean).

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