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The Co-op Juniors transform Snape Maltings into the Land of Oz this Christmas

PUBLISHED: 14:30 24 November 2017 | UPDATED: 15:10 24 November 2017

Chris Evans as Lion, Courtney Yule as Dorothy Gale, Haydn Ingram as Tinman and Thomas Haigh as Scarecrow confront Lizzie Tyte as the Wicked Witch of the West in the Co-op Juniors Theatre Company's Christmas Spectacular in The Land of Oz. Picture: MIKE KWASNIAK

Chris Evans as Lion, Courtney Yule as Dorothy Gale, Haydn Ingram as Tinman and Thomas Haigh as Scarecrow confront Lizzie Tyte as the Wicked Witch of the West in the Co-op Juniors Theatre Company's Christmas Spectacular in The Land of Oz. Picture: MIKE KWASNIAK

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The Co-op Juniors Theatre Company invite you to follow them down the Yellow Brick Road to Snape Maltings for their 13th Christmas Spectacular.

Final rehearsals in full swing for The Co-op Juniors Theatre Company's Christmas Spectacular In The Land of Oz at Snape Maltings. Picture: MIKE KWASNIAKFinal rehearsals in full swing for The Co-op Juniors Theatre Company's Christmas Spectacular In The Land of Oz at Snape Maltings. Picture: MIKE KWASNIAK

In The Land Of Oz takes place long after the Wizard has left explains Alan Ayres, who has taken L Frank Baum’s colourful characters and written an original, festive story.

“The Wicked Witch of the West steals the jewel containing the spirit of Christmas from the Emerald City, so the Scarecrow summons Dorothy Gale back from Kansas to help him, the Lion and Tinman recover the jewel.”

Alan, also the show’s technical director, adds audiences will love Oliver Brett’s set, which features a massive arch framing the Land of Oz with the yellow brick road, backed by an impressive video wall.

“We love to surprise and delight our audience, so the video wall allows us to travel to different colourful locations all over Oz without moving scenery. There are some jaw-dropping magical effects with characters appearing and disappearing, including the Wicked Witch of the West.”

Getting in the festive spirit The Co-op Juniors Theatre Company's Christmas Spectacular In The Land of Oz at Snape Maltings from December 1. Picture: MIKE KWASNIAKGetting in the festive spirit The Co-op Juniors Theatre Company's Christmas Spectacular In The Land of Oz at Snape Maltings from December 1. Picture: MIKE KWASNIAK

The all singing, all dancing adventure features a 100-strong cast of seven to 20 year-olds and a 13-piece orchestra.

“We’re thrilled to have our orchestra back this year,” says director Rebecca Darcy, who has worked with the group for the last two Spectaculars and two summer musicals - the excellent Starlight Express and The Phantom of The Opera.

“The sound quality for live music at Snape Maltings is exceptional, so audiences are in for a real treat with a fast-moving show packed with well-known musical numbers, high-energy dancing and singing and some big surprises.”

Musical director Nigel Virley has been working on the special score for the last few months. He admits arranging such a wide selection of styles to suit the story and the various age groups was a challenge.

Cast members of the Christmas Spectacular check out the 500 costumes for their latest show in the Co-op Juniors' huge store. Picture: MIKE KWASNIAKCast members of the Christmas Spectacular check out the 500 costumes for their latest show in the Co-op Juniors' huge store. Picture: MIKE KWASNIAK

“That’s also the pleasure, seeing our talented young cast rising to that challenge vocally, while also having to dance.”

In The Land Of Oz has no less than five choreographers, led by Rebecca and resident choreographer Kerry Sayer.

Kerry says: “With a big range of ages in the cast we create dance numbers that work for particular groups and allow them to learn new skills along the way. It’s a real delight to see the cast develop their performance skills each year and they love tackling a new dance.”

Another highlight is the 500-plus hand-made costumes, including specially constructed costumes for the Tinman and Glinda, the Good Witch of the South.

Louise Yule as Glinda, the Good Witch of the South and her daughter Courtney is Dorothy Gale. Picture: MIKE KWASNIAKLouise Yule as Glinda, the Good Witch of the South and her daughter Courtney is Dorothy Gale. Picture: MIKE KWASNIAK

“It’s a lot more than the Emerald City,” says Jeannie Ingram, who leads the costume team with Cilla Tricker. “The story has us travelling to the north, south, east and west of Oz, each of which has a distinctive style and colour for the people who live there.”

Louise Yule, playing Glinda, has only seen a design drawing for her outfit.

“I know it’s covered in nearly 200 bubbles, sewn by hand, and when I enter the whole stage is filled with bubbles which come in very useful later in the story - but I have to keep that secret.”

Her daughter Courtney plays the lead role of Dorothy.

“It’s such fun having scenes with her as our characters bounce off each other. I also get to take part in some amazing stage effects which will keep the audience guessing.

“I love playing scenes with the Lion, Tinman and Scarecrow as they’re all so different, yet in the story we’re reunited as close friends after our earlier adventures. And I’m excited to sing the classic Somewhere Over The Rainbow.”

Boasting the biggest Christmas finale they’ve ever staged - complete with falling snow - see the Co-op Juniors’ Christmas Spectacular at Snape Maltings from December 1-10.

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