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Review: The Wiz at The Orchard Theatre, Dartford

Ease on down, ease on down, ease on the down the rooooad!

That's probably the lyric that'll be running around your head if you've been to see The Wiz at the Orchard Theatre this week.

Ease on down, ease on down...

It never ceases to amaze me how professional, devoted, and actually good these kids are performing in the summer show.

The full cast of the Wiz
The full cast of the Wiz

This is the Orchard Theatre's summer youth project, giving children something to do away from calculus and metamorphic rock studies.

They go to a casting session, they rehearse for a couple of weeks and then they're on the stage, acting, singing, dancing - all in front of a massive crowd, night after night.

Over four performances (with the final two happening today) at no point do you think this is an amateur performance. This is a full-blooded show.

There's some sensational singing, some dazzling dance routines, and some accomplished acting to rival anything you've seen at the Orchard.

Oh, and Doodles the dog (playing Toto) was a good boy.

In past years I've mentioned some stand out performers, but this years show feels very much an ensemble of talent.

The lead role of Dorothy has gone to 14-year-old Jodie McMillan who defies her age with a beautiful singing voice.

She convincingly wanders through Oz in a state of confusion and wonder, killing wicked witches, pulling shapes in carefully choreographed routines and caring for her new-found friends.

The story rips through at quite a pace moving from one set piece to another ensuring there's no chance of getting bored.

The other three leads are also stand out performers and light up the stage with their carefully considered portrayals.

Jodie McMillan (14, Dorothy) Tom Falconar (16, Scarecrow) Curtis Sutherland (18, Tinman) Xhanti Nyangwa (15, The Lion)
Jodie McMillan (14, Dorothy) Tom Falconar (16, Scarecrow) Curtis Sutherland (18, Tinman) Xhanti Nyangwa (15, The Lion)

Tom Falconar, 16, plays the Scarecrow, Curtis Sutherland, 18, plays the Tinman and Xhanti Nyangwa, 15, plays the Lion.

Again, superb singing full of soul and energy, excellent acting and all own the role.

I particularly liked each of their introduction songs 'I Was Born on the Day Before Yesterday'; 'Slide Some Oil to Me'; and 'Mean Ole Lion'.

For many of the songs, the rest of the cast stream off the stage and line up on the steps in the audience, performing funky dance routines.

This is obviously an ideal opportunity for mums and dads to catch a glimpse of their little ones but also adds an encompassing experience for the audience.

Mentions must also be made for brilliant performances by Eleanor Homer as Glinda, Hannah Glover as Addaperle, Lily Turner as Evilene and Joseph Warrilow as the Wiz himself.

Anyone whose children performed in this show must be immensely proud of what they have achieved.

There's never a feeling that you are watching children acting - you're watching real performers in a brilliantly put together show.

It's absolutely joyous, heart-warming and the finale is sure to bring a tear to the eye.

There's still chance to go and see the production with a matinee this afternoon and a final evening performance.

Click here for more.

Ease on down, ease on down, ease on down the road.

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