School whizzkids breathe new life into old classic

Ellie Spindler, Eden Haynes, Jessica Melling and Neely Middleton, left to right, in The Wizard of Oz at Tibshelf Community School

Ellie Spindler, Eden Haynes, Jessica Melling and Neely Middleton, left to right, in The Wizard of Oz at Tibshelf Community School

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Magical moments that should be bottled and preserved forever are rare in amateur productions.

But they were there in abundance when Tibshelf Community School breathed new life into classic favourite The Wizard of Oz.

Holly Tudor as Good Witch in Wizard of Oz at Tibshelf Community School

Holly Tudor as Good Witch in Wizard of Oz at Tibshelf Community School

A clever update of the traditional tale by teachers Tris Weston and Tony Booker painted the lead character as damaged Dorothy, haunted by the death of her parents in a car crash, on the verge of being excluded from school and led into trouble by her best friend Toto,

Surrounded by drink and drugs at a party, Dorothy had her drink spiked and passed out. A hallucinatory dream took her along the yellow brick road where she met friends and foes, including gibbering Munchkins, talking trees, evil guards, graceful ballerinas, funky freestlyers and a giant Wizard of Oz (a spectacular creation by the school’s artists).

This was a triumph of teamwork by the 150 students whose efforts on-stage and backstage, where they took on production, technical and choreography roles, made this a musical masterpiece.

Headng the cast was the most talented and cutest Dorothy that I have seen in a school production. . Thirteen-year-old Neely Middleton nailed the role, bringing outstanding singing, vulnerability, fear, feistiness, strength and a convincing American accent to her character.

Her unique take on signature song, Over The Rainbow, in which she accompanied herself on guitar, reached into the soul, grabbed the heart and clung onto it. Little wonder that she got a standing ovation from the capacity audience on the last night of the show.

Other gems included Ellie Spindler as the Cowardly Lion, who had the crowd eating out of her paw. with her air-kissing and regal waves as she prowled the stage singing If I Were KIng of the Forest.

Jessica Melling as Scarecrow, Eden Haynes as Tin Man and Alex Briggs as Toto the Dog made the most of their roles, getting as much enjoyment out of them as the audience had watching them.

The forces of good and evil were represented well by Holly Tudor as golden-voiced Good Witch and Josie Morris as cackling Wicked Witch.

A stage running the length of the school sports hall accommodated the 100-strong cast and enabled freedom of movement in this wizard production which was a credit to students and staff.

Photos by Geoff Cox, of Directions Theatre Arts who supported the production.