The Wizard of Oz

IAN CLARKE Dereham Operatic Society Youth Theatre Company at Dereham Memorial Hall

IAN CLARKE

Judy Garland would be proud – really, really proud of them all.

Ever since the film legend gave her timeless performance of the loveable Kansas girl Dorothy in the black and white screen version, the Wizard of Oz has become a huge favourite for millions across the world.

And a wonderfully talented, energetic and enthusiastic cast of Dereham youngsters last night put on a superb stage version of the famous story.

The Memorial Hall was justifiably packed for the opening night of the Easter holiday show and the audience was treated to something very special.

I had to keep pinching myself to remember that the 50-strong actors and actresses were aged just eight-18.

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Verity Thurgill, only 11 years old, was unbelievably good in the lead role of the little girl who gets whisked into a strange land and desperately tries to get home to her Aunt Em.

Verity showed a fabulous mix of composure, stage presence, maturity, emotion and the little matter of maintaining an American accent. Her accomplished performance surely guarantees a very rosy future is ahead for her.

The audience loved her lively canine companion Toto and Verity coped superbly as he showed off and determinedly tried to chase apples around the stage.

There was true quality from everyone involved in the show with a lovely blend of humour and warmth. A great example was in the first appearance of the little Munchkins.

The other leading characters shone in their dual roles – Hannah Rolfe (Aunt Em/Glinda), Chris Carroll (Uncle Henry/City Guard), Aidan Woods (Hunk/Scarecrow), Greig Rawlings (Hickory/Tinman), James Crocker (Zeke/Lion), Rose McCourt (Miss Gultch/West Witch) and Jake Champion (Professor/Wizard).

There was terrific creativity in the costumes, scenery, choreography and special effects.

Spread the news, the Wicked Witch is dead – but shining young talent is alive and well in Dereham

t The Wizard of Oz continues nightly until Saturday April 10, 7.30pm. There is also a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm. Tickets available from Hallmark in Dereham, telephone 01362 851919.

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