Lael Smith pours a lifetime's love of theatre into Chichester's Wizard of Oz

Littlehampton Academy student Lael Smith, aged 15, says she has loved theatre her whole life.

Thursday, 12th December 2019, 9:36 am
Lael Smith in rehearsal for CFYT's The Wizard of Oz. Photo Helen Murray

She will be in exactly the right place this Christmas when she returns to Chichester Festival Youth Theatre for their main-house production of The Wizard of Oz.

Lael will play a tree, a poppy and a jitterbug, her latest roles in a happy line of youth theatre adventures.

“I remember being really young and loving being on the stage. After seeing a few of the shows, I thought I would love to give it a go myself.

“My first show was Beauty and the Beast. I was a waiter crab. I didn’t have any lines, but we sang a song. Because it was my first show, I learnt the complete process of rehearsing and then performing, and it was great. And it wasn’t too scary. You have got the butterflies, but the butterflies go away.

“And then I did Sleeping Beauty last year.”

A Sleeping Beauty which maybe took some of the audience to places they weren’t necessarily expecting: “But I think once you got a grip on it, it was good to follow it along and just to see where it was going to go. And I think I found it easier, having already done it once.”

Now she has got a trio of roles in The Wizard of Oz: “But definitely the jitterbug is the most fun. It is a very dancy part and that’s one of my most favourite things to do.”

But Lael admits she would be happy to do anything. The key thing is simply to be part of something special: “It is great to get to come here to do something you love at Christmas.”

Acting is something Lael would love to do full time: “I am just doing this now, but I am really set on performing. Hopefully I can go on to Northbrook in Worthing. They do musical theatre courses, and I have been talking to some of the cast members, and they have been saying that they think it would be suited to me, so it will be maybe like a progression.”

In the meantime, she’s relishing the opportunities The Wizard of Oz will bring – and knows that a big let-down awaits once it is all over: “I will sit and sob for a while, I expect!

“But it has been great to be around all these people for all these months. But going back to normal life, I will still be doing drama and other classes through the youth theatre. I also do dance and musical theatre outside the youth theatre, but it is the musical theatre that I enjoy most.”

L Frank Baum’s classic will be on Chichester’s main-house stage, running from December 14-29, with a recommended age of seven. It will be directed by Lucy Betts in the year which sees 80th anniversary of the release of the landmark Judy Garland film.

The CFT are promising a faithful adaptation of Baum’s classic novel in a version which was originally commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and features all the songs from the 1939 movie, including Over the Rainbow, If I Only Had a Brain and We’re Off To See The Wizard.