Props Goes to Oz

Billie Tristram (Dorothy) and Levi Kenway (Locasta) in Props Youth Theatre's 'The Fabulous Wizard of Oz.' IMAGE: Supplied

There’s no better celebration of Townsville’s winter school holidays than Props Youth Theatre’s mid-year show. The production – featuring a frenzy of primary and high school students from across Townsville – is full of colour and excitement, and gives new light to an old tale: The Fabulous Wizard of Oz.

Adapted by Todd Barty from the original work of L. Frank Baum, the play introduces its audience to a fresh perspective on the story of Dorothy’s adventures along the yellow brick road. As well as being performed by a young cast of performers, Oz is also directed by a recent Props alumna, Abbie Wakeham. With the assistance of Artistic Director Todd Barty and supported by a cast rich in untapped talent, Abbie has crafted a show that left Wednesday’s school-aged audience enraptured (not an easy feat!).

This show is more a tale of Oz than it is about a little girl and her dog; beginning with Dorothy’s house landing in the magical land, we follow the witches and wizard who each guide Dorothy into doing tasks for their benefit, giving an alternative perspective as to why the classic story unfolded the way it did.

Todd’s approach of adapting a classic tale is extremely clever: the show still draws in larger audiences through its name, but keeps crowds entertained even if they’ve seen a hundred remakes of Oz before. And this adaptation benefits even further thanks to incredible casting by Abbie.

Locasta, played by Levi Kenway, was a standout. Whether he (she?) was centre stage driving the narrative or in the background reacting to dialogue, Levi had incredible facial expressions, body language, and comedic timing.

We’ve now seen Billie Tristram tackle several lead roles with Props, most recently in Charlotte’s Web, and it’s great to see her continually improve: her portrayal of Dorothy was brilliant, and left us crossing our fingers that she managed to find her way back to Kansas.

Special mention has to be made of the quartet playing Kahlidah the giant spider (Minette Wilde, Kyrra Hartas, Macee Hartas and Arianne Wuth): the four girls spoke in perfect sync, making for a very formidable and intimidating creature. There was no hesitation in line delivery, with the group moving and talking as one – it was really impressive!

There were a few sections where I believe the cast could wait for some of the raucous noise of the ensemble died down before continuing with dialogue, or raise their own voices higher to be heard – especially in flying monkey scenes, there wasn’t much that could be heard over the animals’ shrill squeals.

The ensemble themselves were brilliant to watch – and manage to make me smile in every Props show. Filled with energy and excitement, always reacting to what’s happening on stage around them, but still having cheeky glances into the audience to see if mum or dad are watching; they embody what is so brilliant about youth theatre, and you can see them being shaped into skilled performers more and more with each show they’re a part of.

Susanne Dodson excelled in costume design – transforming a man into a witch is no easy task, I’m sure. Equally impressive was the work of the makeup team, with the Tin Woodsman, the Cowardly Lion, and Locasta all looking the part.

The Old Courthouse Theatre is always such a magical place for families in the school holidays: the stories that unfold on its floorboards are full of colour and wonder to keep kids and parents alike entertained; and often inspire children to get started in theatre themselves – with the next round of Full Throttle Acting Training Workshops kicking off soon.

Catch Props Youth Theatre’s The Fabulous Wizard of Oz at the Old Courthouse Theatre until Saturday 7 July, with tickets available here

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