Any young actress who plays Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz has some very big shoes to fill - or should that be ruby slippers? It’s a part that defined Judy Garland forever.
But 16-year-old Alyssia Kershaw is up for the challenge. “I absolutely loved the film when I was young. Judy Garland was amazing. You really believe in Dorothy’s personal journey.”
“She starts the show yearning for a different way of life in the song Over The Rainbow. She’s then transported to this magical world but learns in the end that there’s no place like home. It really is my dream part, and I’m working hard to make it believable. It should be Dorothy on stage, not Alyssia.”
One big challenge is working with two scene-stealing dogs – Scruffy and Tia - who alternate the role of Toto. “I’m having bonding sessions with them outside rehearsals,” Alyssia explains. “I’ll have doggie treats hidden in my belt to keep them close to me on stage, but I might have to deal with some unpredictable behaviour – while staying in character!”
Anyone who saw Alyssia give a sneak preview of Over the Rainbow at the recent Mayor’s Variety Show at the Anvil will have been impressed by her lovely singing voice, and the warmth and sincerity of her performance. But even at 16 she is a stage veteran.
The Wizard of Oz is Alyssia’s fourth show with Basingstoke Amateur Theatrical Society, following parts in Annie, Carousel and The Music Man. She’s also currently rehearsing BAOS Limelight’s production of Grease in October, and Winchester Theatre Royal’s Christmas panto Sleeping Beauty. On Saturdays she attends JG Dance Theatre School, in Henley. All this alongside A-Levels at QMC.
“I’m very grateful to my mum and dad for their support,” says Alyssia. “I couldn’t do this without them. They are my taxi service and they support me every step of the way!”
In fact Alyssia’s dad Nick will get to enjoy her performance as Dorothy every night – from the orchestra pit. He plays the trombone for BATS. So does each give the other notes on their performance? “No!” laughs Alyssia, “We keep our areas very separate!”
Ten performances of The Wizard of Oz run from Thursday 20 - Saturday 29 November. Performances start at 7.15pm with 2.15pm matinees on Saturday 22, Sunday 23 and Saturday 29.