Reviewed by Dave Smith
The Hills Youth Theatre made a lively start to the year with their production Oz, Tim Kelly’s adaptation of the well-loved Wizard of Oz. Judy Sampson took on the task of directing over seventy young performers and succeeded in keeping them active and focussed through the performance.
The show began impressively with animations projected onto the rear wall and side flats. That attractive technique was sustained through the show, with successive projections seamlessly linking the action. Emily Morris’s choreography successfully illustrated the story line and its mood, all the more commendable considering the relative sizes of the stage and cast.
There were a number of striking performances. Maggie Felton made a naïve and charming Dorothy, Matilda Butler and Bailey Park contrasted strongly as the good and evil witches, Ainslie Casbolt was a consistently and delightfully muddled Scarecrow, while Georgia Nadebaum as the Tin Woodsman and Ella Heywood-Smith as the Lion gave consistent and solid performances. Ellie Bickerton excelled as Toto, Dorothy’s little dog. She was thoroughly believable, always showing empathy to the other characters. Another two winning cameos were Ned Baulderstone as Oz and Chloe Zodrow as the China Princess. These young performers show a clear understanding of both the use of space and the timing required to succeed.
The cast did as well with the songs as they could, particularly considering they often lacked a strong and distinctive melody line. Overall, though, HYT brought a happy and visually pleasing production to their appreciative audience.