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Wizard of a show sees Kelso cast create some real magic

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There was a lot riding on the opening night of this first shot at the much-loved Wizard of Oz by the cast and crew of KAOS Musical Theatre Company.

Its status as a big-screen landmark containing iconic cultural characters means “Wizard” is a step up for any amateur outfit.

With green-faced witches and flying monkeys, the eye-popping movie of L. Frank Baum’s story also propelled lead Judy Garland to super stardom.

So it was a brave choice by debut director Pooee Pitman and the company – but after watching Tuesday’s opening night in Kelso’s Tait Hall, it can safely be said this is a truly magical production, which sets a new benchmark for years to come.

From the youngest performer on stage to leading lady, Rhianne Miller, 17, from Jedburgh, as Dorothy, the performances quite simply shine.

Everyone by now knows the story of how Kansas farm girl Dorothy and her dog Toto get caught up in a tornado and are transported to the Land of Oz.

They head off along the yellow brick road, together with a scarecrow, tin man and cowardly lion.

But there is danger, as the Wicked Witch of the West tries to part Dorothy from her enchanted ruby slippers.

All who have had a role to play in bringing this show to life deserve praise, but the lead actors especially so.

First up is Rhianne as Dorothy. For such a young performer, she is a real star in the making, with a lovely singing voice that does justice to the Oscar-winning number, Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

Next come Scarecrow (Tony Jackson), Tin Man (Alan Thomson) and Cowardly Lion (Steven Luke).

Right from the start, Pooee was adamant the Kelso production would stick closely to the book and film, otherwise it would disappoint audiences who have loved the story and songs for 75 years.

With that in mind, the easiest compliment to pay the aforementioned trio is that it was like watching the movie.

Tony’s wobbly-legged scarecrow is beautifully realised, constantly stuffing bits of straw back into himself.

Alan’s tin man has the perfect amount of pathos and is clad in a costume as good as the original – amazing when you discover it was actually created by Tony and Steven, complete with steam-puffing headgear.

And then there is Steven as the Cowardly Lion. He is a joy to watch in the role made famous by actor Bert Lahr, complete with growls, iconic laugh and tail-swinging swagger.

And it would be remiss not to mention the Wicked Witch of the West.

It is hard to believe under all the green make-up is talented 16-year-old Sophie Lynch, also a Jedburgh Grammar School pupil, who brings just the right amount of comedy-tinged malevolence to the role.

Avril Murray’s choreography is spot on, while the orchestra, under musical director Heather Cattanach, is a pleasure to listen to.

As for the young cast members who fill the roles of everything from Munchkins and trees, to jitterbug dancers and flying monkeys – the only word to use is tremendous.

Pooee has put heart and soul into the show over the last nine months, with even husband Spencer and the couple’s children all on stage at some point.

“It has been an absolute joy and pleasure to direct and produce for the very first time with KAOS,” she said.

“It’s been 75 years since The Wizard of Oz was first screened, and we really hope we have done it justice.”

Yes Pooee, you and KAOS certainly have.

 

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