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Haverhill theatre-goers are off to see the wizard

A story that was first read by children 119 years ago and has been portrayed in various forms many times since, most famously in a 1939 movie starring Judy Garland, is set to hit the stage in Haverhill tomorrow.

The Wizard of Oz, which was released on the silver screen 80-years-ago by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and is based on a 1900 book by L. Frank Baum is the latest production by Haverhill’s Centre Stage Company.

It begins a six-day run at the arts centre on Tuesday, with a show at 7.30pm every night, plus a 2.30pm Saturday matinee.

The Centre Stage Company preparing for their next show, the Wizard of Oz. Contributed picture
The Centre Stage Company preparing for their next show, the Wizard of Oz. Contributed picture

Director David Hart worked with choreographer Peter Dedman on the award-winning Made in Dagenham, and they are once more working together for this show.

David said: “There have been lots of adaptations done of the Wizard of Oz, which was originally a book that came out at the turn of the century.

“It was finally adapted, most famously for the film in 1939 and it was changed quite a bit for that.

“There has been other adaptations which are very different from the film but then, I’m not sure when it was, maybe in the early 1980s, the Royal Shakespeare Company did this adaptation which follows the film almost exactly.”

The story of course follows Dorothy, played by Faye Dower, and her dog Toto, Tin Man (James Player), Scarecrow (Cian Harriss) and the Cowardly Lion (Centre Stage newcomer Jason André) on their journey to The Emerald City to meet the all-powerful Wizard of Oz (Graeme Johnston) in the hope that he can help them fulfil their dreams.

This adaptation has a cast of about 40, said David, ranging in age from about seven upwards and was a fast-moving, technically challenging one that uses a lot of graphics, including video for the Wicked Witch of the West’s (Sam Barker) flying monkeys.

The famous songs are all there, ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow,’ ‘Ding Dong the Witch is Dead’ and ‘We’re off to See the Wizard’ as are the Munchkins, with all of their cheeky, jolly capers.

The show also includes a Jitterbug dance scene, which was recorded for the 1939 movie but ended up not making the cut.

All of the musical arrangements are once again overseen by Karen Chinery, with Claire Harvey the producer.

David said that the show has something for everyone: “It is a big family show, that’s one of its main appeals and it’s why they have it on TV most Christmases.”