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(16 July 2013)


Pupils at Herries Preparatory School in Cookham Dean took their families and staff on a memorable journey along the yellow brick road last week with their dazzling production of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. After months spending time learning lines, practising songs, costume-making and rehearsals, all of the hard work paid off. From smallest munchkin to the tallest witch, every child had their moment to shine, and gave an impressive performance.

“Every year our music and drama teacher, Mrs Castell works her magic and this year she has done it again. She has cast her spell, in the fashion of a good witch, not a wicked one, and transformed the emerald green of Herries into the Emerald City for these two nights,” enthused Ms Green.

Years 3, 4, 5 and 6 took part in the musical, which is based on the eponymous children’s novel by L. Frank Baum. It chronicles the adventures of a young orphan called Dorothy who is swept away from her Kansas farm home in a cyclone along with her beloved dog, Toto.

As with all school productions, there was a great deal of demand for the lead role so the Director of Music and Drama, Jami Castell decided to have not one but five Dorothies. Although the drama teacher was initially a bit concerned about the logistical feat, she said that all five girls, Jemima, Emma, Jessie, Holly and Kate, were “very mature about the changeovers each time and took it all in their stride.”

“When you are on stage and the lights are on you, it’s an amazing feeling,” said Holly Setterfield, who was one of the Dorothies. “I love the moment at the end of the production when there’s a moment’s silence followed by applause. It’s so exciting.”

Friend and fellow Dorothy, Jessie Sumroy said that despite some “nerve-racking moments” during rehearsals, with people forgetting lines, it was always great when school productions came together in the end and the audience enjoyed your performance.

“Being in a show like the Wonderful Wizard of Oz teaches the pupils so many good skills - not just acting and singing, but teamwork, confidence, organisation,

being self-aware,” explained Mrs Castell.


“This particular story also has such great messages,” she added. “Firstly, Dorothy is a wonderful role model because she stands up for what she thinks is right and is not afraid to stick by her friends. The second important message is that like the lion, you can find courage within yourself if you look hard enough. Thirdly, we learn that having a brain isn't just about having a piece of paper which says you have one. Finally, the story tells us there is no place like home and maybe you shouldn't always be looking on the other side of the fence and thinking that things are better there - you should appreciate what you have.”


Herries Preparatory School has an impressive track record when it comes to summer productions. Over the years, the pupils have performed Annie, the Tempest and a Midsummer Night's Dream.

“We have a strong tradition of celebrating the arts at Herries and we are very grateful to Mrs Castell for everything she contributes to the school. Having grown up in a musical family, she is passionate about drama and music and this enthusiasm is infectious and has inspired many Herries pupils who may not have previously considered drama or music,” said Sophie Green.

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