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Spellbound celebrates a magnificent 25 years with fantastic Wizard of Oz

The 25th anniversary cake is cut.

The 25th anniversary cake is cut.

To celebrate Spellbound’s 25th anniversary, a special celebration cake was cut after the group’s final show of The Wizard of Oz on Saturday the 9th of August.

Audience ‘Spellbound’ by Wizard of Oz youth production

The story could have been told by any number of the attentive children in the audience, all transfixed and anticipating the next character.  (Who says DVDs aren’t educational?!)  They could have told us that Dorothy runs away from home in Kansas in order to save her dog, Toto from a court order put on by Miss Gultch.  Sheltering from a storm her farmhouse is sucked up in a “twister”.  The dream that follows sees all the characters in her life transformed into the Wicked Witch of the West, the Wizard of Oz, and the Scarecrow without a brain, the Tin-man without a heart and a Lion without courage.

The cowardly lion, the scarecrow, toto, Dorothy and the tin man on the road to Oz

The cowardly lion, the scarecrow, toto, Dorothy and the tin man on the road to Oz

What the adults, or equally children, in the audience could learn is the message that “Somewhere over the Rainbow” does not exist, and that despite following the “Yellow Brick Road” there really is “no place like home”.

Whether viewed from pure fantasy or received with the strong message of believing in ourselves, it is the performers, all sixteen or under, who are putting us under the spell or hardly being able to believe they are that young.

Dorothy, played by Astrid Bishop, is on stage for most of the production; she is word perfect in Kansas accent, clear in tone for singing and fleet of foot in the magical ruby slippers, and all the while holding or directing Toto on a lead!  This was perfect casting and surely a launch pad for future productions.  And well done Toto (shared between Frank and Elsie).  They never flinched or missed a line when handled in the fray of acting, despite the ever changing lights, and effects of noise and stage smoke.

The double roles of Nathan Lamb, (Scarecrow/Hunk), Michael Hill (Tin-man/Hickory) and Callum Close (Lion/Zeke), kept the audience convinced to the characters, so versatile were they as small town country boys who learned lessons in life on their own journey.  Again, are they really “youth” performers?

A large cast prohibits naming them all, but the Apple Trees, the Crazy Crows and the Munchkin Teachers, along with the Jitterbugs, all leant mischievousness, and a little innuendo, to the production.  The “green scene”, of the Emerald City gave range to many of the cast, all attired and made up in green.  Special mention must be made to all the backstage support that includes all the scenery painters and prop movers, and especially the light and sound effects for the many effects of storm, dreams and rainbow.  Even the wicked, screeching Miss Gultch/Wicked Witch of the West, played by Anna Lee, deserves applause for being so horrible!  (The children loved her.)

Whether as part of the Munchkins, the Lollypop Guild, the Lullaby League, Glenda’s Girls or part of the chorus or dancers, many could potentially be the future Emerald City Guard/Uncle Harry, played so effortlessly by stalwart and previous Charles Hart winner Ollie Wareham, or the Good Witch Glinda/Aunt Em (Eloise Kilkelly-Doyle) or the Wizard of Oz/Professor Marvel, an actor beyond his years, Fin Collinson.

The production team of Karen Bishop, Spellbound producer, Emma Hill, director and choreographer, Kerry Bishop, musical director and Dora Bishop, voice coach, must be proud and reassured that with this production they have triumphed, and that the future is surely assured for the next twenty-five years.  Well done!

Jane Norris, Guest reviewer