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“The Wizard of Oz”

What is essentially a pantomime, performed in June, with a full house and very enthusiastic audience, was a very impressive production from TADS Teens.

A small cast, but they all worked their socks off and we were with them all the way.  There were no weak links, which is unusual for a production of this type, but I came away feeling very positive and having seen an exciting show.

The cast were involved in making the scenery, which was colourful and very suitable, giving us the yellow brick road, and the door to the Emerald City was particularly impressive, with different apertures for the Gatekeeper to speak from – which was very cleverly done.  Imaginative lighting, including the green for the Emerald City, plus good sound made this a technically sound, good looking production to support the undoubted talents of the actors.

I liked the opening, using a screen with film of a tornado, it was atmospheric and then we got the very colourful scene with the Munchkins and Dorothy when she finds she’s lost.  The flashes to herald the arrival of Glinda were a little loud, but created excitement.

Costumes were all very crisp and colourful, and were worn with assurance.

The fact that the cast were aged between 13 and 15 years, was a surprise, as I thought several were older than that – as the performances they gave were mature, and I commend Rachel and Lea for getting these young performers to buy into the performance angle so well.

So let’s start with Dorothy, played by Charlotte Ridley.  A charming portrayal– giving us all the characteristics of a real storybook Dorothy.  I liked the way Charlotte was slightly child-like, but also showed her caring side with the other characters.  She also coped well with Toto, it was almost possible to believe he was alive!

Eleanor Reid was a really evil Wicked Witch, who got lots of reaction from the audience for her intentions towards Dorothy, Toto and Riff Raff, whilst maintaining her character – very well done.

The Witch’s sidekick (literally) was played by Ellen Stultiens.  Riff Raff was a lovely part to play, and Ellen gave it comedy and expression galore, again  was impressed.

Harmony Nanton, a newcomer, was a beautiful Glinda – a part she really grew into.  I thought she started a little tentatively, but after the first exchange she suddenly seemed to gain confidence, and she didn’t look back.  I was very surprised to find out that she was the youngest member of the cast, her stage skills were well-developed.

Another new TADS member was Josh Kendall who played the Lion.  I loved what he did with the part – he brought a lovely understanding to the cowardly lion, and we could really believe his need to be brave and frighten people, but the fact that he couldn’t.  He delivered some amusing lines very well.  Another young person who will, I hope, go a long way in performing terms.

Mollie Bray was a very good Tin Man – we really got the feel that she didn’t have a heart, but knew what it was and wanted one.  I liked what Mollie did with the part.

Scarecrow was played very well by Paris Ovenden – slightly scatty as would be the case for someone without a brain.  I liked her loose-limbed movement which added to the feel of her being stuffed with straw.

I thought this trio interacted very well – and all gave well-studied performances.

One of my favourite young performers, Harry Rodgers, was the Gatekeeper of the Emerald City, with a very natty moustache, and was also the voice of the Wizard of Oz. Both nicely portrayed, and Harry also managed to sneak in one of his trademark comedy performances as a Munchkin.

The last (but by no means least) performer was Claire McGinn, who played a Munchkin and a Guard at the gate of the Emerald City.  She held herself well as the Guard, and was a good cast member.

The whole production proceeded with pace and assurance, and I was particularly pleased that the whole cast achieved good projection throughout, so that we did not miss any vital words.  The music used was suitable, and did not interrupt the flow of the production, whilst the scenery and movement throughout gave us good dimensions and contrasts.

A charming well-crafted production, with everyone performing to their best, made this an excellent show, that I was very happy to be asked to review.

My thanks to TADS for their hospitality, it is always a pleasure to attend TADS shows.

TADS Teens Theatre Group


review date 29th June 2013, TADS Theatre, Toddington

Director:  Rachel Birks   Producer: Lea Pryer


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