Katie Bennett will be our Dorothy this year at Bognor’s Regis Centre, fresh from great experiences in Mary Poppins Returns and Mamma Mia 2.
The Wizard of Oz is in the Alexandra Theatre from Wednesday, December 11-Saturday, January 4.
Katie graduated with first-class honours in 2017 from St Mary’s University in Twickenham.
“I did quite a lot of stand-in work when I first graduated. I was young Tanya stand-in for Mamma Mia 2. They use the stand-in to set up the shot and the lights and then the main actors come in. That was at Shepperton Studios. Unfortunately I didn’t get to go to Croatia with the main team.
“But it was an amazing time. I went from pretty much the beginning to the end, from the start of August to the start of December, and I just learnt so much by observing. I saw Lily James and all the main cast. It was just amazing to be on the set of a proper feature film.
“And I learnt the minimal side of acting. Screen is very different to being on stage. A lot of it just comes down to them being themselves on screen. The actors are just being themselves and being natural. It was a big learning curve.”
Katie was also Aunt Jane’s photo double during the filming of Mary Poppins Returns: “I was still at uni. I was going off and doing a couple of days. It was amazing to see Cherry Tree Lane.”
The tightness of the filming schedule meant that effectively actors needed sometimes to be in two places at once. While close-up shots were being done of Aunt Jane (Emily Mortimer), Katie would be seen, for instance, as Aunt Jane in a van driving away – simply to save time.
All great experience, says Katie, who comes from just outside Chichester.
And now comes experience of a different kind with her very first panto.
“This is my first professional pantomime and I am thrilled to be making my debut in Bognor Regis, so close to my home. I think to be a good Dorothy, you have got to be very brave. She is quite a strong female character. The Palladium version and the Judy Garland version are versions people will know, and I think you have just got to be very positive in the role. You have got to have the strength to go off and find what you find. She goes away with her little dog and her positivity never wanes.
“And the whole Oz story is just magical in the 80th anniversary year. But you have to remember we are doing the pantomime version. We have got so many references to bring out the modern times… and it will just be so magical! I am a huge fan of panto. Last year I did a tour with a CBeebies show, and it was my first real taste of interacting with the audience, the kind of thing you will be doing in panto, that sort of family show. And for young children, that experience is so important.
“My own first experience of going to the theatre was going to panto. I think it was at the Kings Theatre in Southsea, and I think it was Snow White. And I remember being very scared of the forest!”
Tickets for The Wizard of Oz at Bognor’s Alexandra Theatre are available on alexandratheatre.co.uk and 01243 861010.