As a child, Bella Wright was transfixed by the wonderful world of Oz - the music, the magic and even the Munchkins.

But the 14-year-old never imagined following the Yellow Brick Road on screen would lead her to a starring role in an upcoming production of one of her favourite childhood musicals.

Bella will be donning Dorothy Gale's iconic ruby slippers this January in Tauranga Musical Theatre's production of The Wizard of Oz Young Performer's Edition - a one-hour version of the 1939 musical performed by local youth aged 10 to 18.

Although this will be her first production with Tauranga Musical Theatre, Bella is no stranger to performing. As the daughter of actors Mark and Natalie Wright, Bella has been surrounded by singing, acting and dancing for as long as she can remember.

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"I wouldn't say I was pushed into being a performer, but it has always been part of our lives," the Aquinas College student said.

"When my sister and I were younger, we used to put on plays for our parents, standing in front of them and showing them what we could do," she said.
"It is one of my earliest memories of performing, and I just love that I can keep doing something I enjoy so much."

Bella auditioned for the show hot on the heels of a 20-city New Zealand tour of The Sound of Music, in which she played Brigitta von Trapp.

Having previously starred in an Aquinas school productions of Oliver and Bugsy Malone in supporting roles, the gruelling two-month rehearsal and performance schedule of The Sound of Music was a step up from what young Bella was used to. But it was an experience she will never forget.

"I was away from home and school for two and a half months, rehearsing for a month in Christchurch before touring in both the North and South Islands," she said.

"I loved it because it was so different in more ways than one - every night was a different theatre, different bed, and different city."

But rather than have the experience dampen the flames of her passion, it sparked a desire to do more shows.

So when Mum Natalie spied a notice for The Wizard of Oz auditions, Bella didn't hesitate to apply - despite having come off tour just days before auditions were held.

"Having just had that on-stage experience from The Sound of Music, and realising how much I loved being on stage, I thought, 'Why not give it a go?'" Bella said.

While Dorothy wasn't a part she specifically auditioned for, simply hoping to be a part of the show, Bella was "so happy" to learn she was selected in the starring role, fulfilling a childhood dream come true.

"If you told me I would be playing Dorothy when I was little I don't think I would have believed you.

"Growing up with the film, and being so familiar with it, it will be amazing to be part of the show. I can't wait to get on stage again."

The Wizard of Oz Young Performers' Edition is playing at Westside Theatre, 17th Avenue, from January 19-27, 2018.


BELLA WRIGHT:

What are your tips for conquering pre-show nerves?
- Take the show as it is, go into it knowing you got chosen for the part and you are doing this for all those people in the audience.

What are some of your favourite musical shows or films?
- Aside from The Wizard of Oz, I used to love Grease - we were brought up with heaps of classic musical shows and films.

Which do you prefer: Acting, singing or dancing?
- I love all three, but I think if I had to pick one, acting because I love the thrill of being someone else for a little bit and getting involved in a character is heaps of fun for me.