"The magical land of Oz"
by Jill Lawrie on 19/12/19

The highly acclaimed Chichester Festival Youth Theatre are currently staging “The Wizard of Oz” with Lucy Betts directing again following her success last year with “Sleeping Beauty”. She promises a faithful adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s 1900 novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” in this 80th year of the iconic 1939 film that shot the young Judy Garland to stardom. Lucy was herself a member of the CFYT for several years and in fact played the role of Dorothy back in 1999.

This classic American fairy tale follows the magical adventures of farm girl Dorothy and her devoted dog Toto who are swept away to the land of Oz during a tornado. Here she encounters a scarecrow (without a brain) a tin man (without a heart) and a cowardly lion (without courage) who journey with her to the wizard in the Emerald City …. but first she must bring him the broomstick from the Wicked Witch of the West!

Reuniting again are set designer Simon Higlett and costume designer Ryan Dawson Laight who do not disappoint with their spectacular creations. Kansas is cleverly shown in monochrome with vibrant colours bursting forth for the magical land of Oz.

This feelgood musical is peppered with such familiar musical numbers as “Over the Rainbow”, “Yellow Brick Road” and “We’re off to see the Wizard” and is gloriously brought to life by the large cast of talented youngsters. Ella O’Keeffe shone in the central role of Dorothy and Alfie Scott gave an outstanding performance playing the scarecrow with great facial expressions and competent stage presence. Joe Clines (tin man) and Richard Chapman (lion) impressed too in their roles of loyal companions. Florence Clarke (Wicked Witch of the West) impressed in her dramatic demise and Luc Oratis was a convincing character as both Professor Marvel and the Wizard of Oz. Mention too for excellent choreography by the 1920’s style Jitterbugs’ dance routine and the incredible Ellie Dickens as Toto’s puppeteer.
Visually stunning, inventive theatricality blended with an exciting mix of energy and enthusiasm from so many young people ensures the show hits all the right notes.

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