Gallery: We're off to see The Wiz at the Spa!

WITH just five days of intensive rehearsals a group of youngsters are today preparing to perform the musical The Wiz. JAMES MARSTON went along to a rehearsal.

James Marston

WITH just five days of intensive rehearsals a group of youngsters are today preparing to perform the musical The Wiz.

JAMES MARSTON went along to a rehearsal.

TIME is precious for the youngsters taking part in The Wiz and not a minute of rehearsal is wasted.

That's because opening night is next Wednesday.

And in just five days 95 youngsters have had to learn songs, dance routines, and lines for the seventh Summer Youth Project show at Felixstowe's Spa Pavilion.

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Director Rebecca Darcy said: “There is an intense rehearsal period of five days and we started on Monday. On Monday and Tuesday next week we have technical and dress rehearsals.

“We have to work hard to set the whole show in time.”

As the youngsters take to the stage under the watchful eyes of choreographer Suzie Lowe and musical director Richard Healey, Rebecca takes a moment to talk about the show.

She said: “The Wiz is based on The Wizard of Oz but it is a modernised version. It doesn't have the traditional glitter and cheesiness of the traditional story we all know.

“We have 95 children taking part and they have all had to audition, most are from the Suffolk area. We have some youngsters that do the show year after year.”

The idea of the show is to boost confidence as well as give youngsters a chance to experience the excitement of taking part in a production directed by professionals.

Rebecca, 27, said the youngsters rehearse from 9am to 5pm.

She added: “The project is an opportunity for youngsters to try out the theatre. Many won't have been part of a show before. there is a great adrenalin rush being on stage and we do the whole thing in just two weeks. It is exciting and stimulating.

“The project builds confidence and skills and it is great to be able to see youngsters progress.”

Theatre manager Julie Howes said: “The youth project is part of our community outreach work. This is the seventh year of the project and we are looking forward to another successful show.”

Mum-to-be Rebecca is a professional musical theatre performer as well as principal of Felixstowe and Woodbridge Stagecoach theatre school.

She added: “A lot of the characters in The Wiz are more subtle than in the original story. It relies on the audience to use its imagination.

“We have Munchkins with moir� attitude than the giggling traditional Munchkin. The Wiz is a bit more of a mature show.”

King of Pop Michael Jackson appeared in the film version of the show as the scarecrow.

Rebecca said: “We are including a dance by the crows as a tribute to Michael Jackson.”

Songs from the show include:

- He's The Wiz

- As Soon As I Get Home

- Ease On Down The Road

- No Bad News

Rebecca added: “The youngsters are on stage a lot and all the children are in the full cast numbers, we have involved them as much as we can.

“I love watching when the show pulls together. I am really looking forward to seeing the finished production.”

- The Wiz opens at Felixstowe's Spa Pavilion on Wednesday August 12 and runs until August 15. Tickets are available from the box office on 01394 282126.

Has your child taken part in the Summer Youth Project? What do you think? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send an e-mail to

The Cast:-

DOROTHY - Charlotte Mitchell

AUNT EM - Betty Charlton


ADDAPERLE (good witch of north ) - Flora Charlton

GLINDA (good witch of south) - Vicky Jam

EVILLENE (wicked witch of west) - Stephanie Hazelwood

SCARECROW - Tom Mayhew

TINMAN - Dan Ablitt

LION - George Jennings

THE WIZ - Peter Hazelwood

The Dog:-

FOUR dogs were auditioned to play the part of Toto.

Rebecca said: “It was the most unusual audition I had ever done.”

Dudley, owned by Tina King and Trevor Swain, of Kesgrave, won the part. He is a five-year-old Yorkshire terrier and West Highland terrier cross breed.

Tina said: “He has never done anything like this before. But he loves dressing up and showing off. He's got lots of costumes.

“We're absolutely thrilled he is taking part, we're very excited.

“We have been training him at home to jump into his basket.”

The Players:-

Tom Mayhew, 18, of Hollesley.

“I play the part of the Scarecrow. He is really laid back and we have gone for a new age traveller scarecrow with dreadlocks and baggy clothes. He is very relaxed.

“This is my fourth show. I want to do musical theatre for a living and I am off to London later this year to study the subject.

“The youth project is really good experience and a way for young people to get on stage.”

Alex Dickin, 16, of Hervey Street, Ipswich/

“I am a senior dancer. I am in all the musical numbers taking part in the routines. This is my third youth project, I have been stage crew before and last year I was a dancer.

“I enjoy performing to the audience, I get a buzz from it. It is hard work but good fun.”

Zoe Lambert, 11, of Hintlesham Drive, Ipswich.

“This is my fourth time at the Summer Youth Project. I am a junior dancer. I like dancing and I like being on stage.

“We dance and sing. I enjoy it.”

Charlotte Mitchell, 16, of Sidegate Lane, Ipswich.

“I am playing Dorothy. She is the lead role and she gets blown to Oz in a storm and the story is about her adventures and the people she meets there.

“This is my first time performing with the Summer Youth Project. I heard good things about it from friends and decided to join in. I love the experience of being on stage.”