Leeds Playhouse – until 25 January 2020
Reviewed By Dawn Smallwood
One is off to see the Wizard, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz which is indeed one of most anticipated and awaited production this season. Based on L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz (published in 1900) and set to Harold Arlen’s music and lyrics, James Brining brings this exciting production on stage, in the newly re-opened Quarry Theatre.
Many are familiar with the musical hits from the legendary award winning film (1939) starring Judy Garland and this production isn’t any different. The staging intertwines well with the well known musical hits and ensures that universal longings, Somewhere Over The Rainbow and There is No Place Like Home, are not compromised in any form whatsoever.
This fairy tale focuses on universal themes including longing, freedom, change, being true to oneself, friendships, exploring within, and appreciating what really matters. The performance is led by 14 year old Lucy Sherman who puts on such an excellent and memorable performance as Dorothy. She shares her journey on the Yellow Brick Road, destined to the Emerald City and to meet the Wizard (Graham Hoadly), with Toto (Doris and also a Toto puppeteer by Alisa Dalling), her dog, and her new found friends, Scarecrow (Eleanor Sutton), Tinman (Sam Harrison) and Lion (Marcus Ayton). They are in a collective quest to pursue their wishes. However they firstly need to bravely encounter the dark and determined Wicked Witch of the West (Polly Lister) however they are magically guided from Glinda (Angela Wynter), a good witch.
There are so many memorable highlights particularly with the eye captivating staging projections and visuals that depict the scenes, from the tornado in Kansas which transports Dorothy (Sherman) to the colourful and rainbow like Munchkinland, and then via the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City. Simon Higlett’s creative staging and costumes compliment so well with Tim Mitchell’s lighting, Ben Harrison’s soundscapes and also Simon Wainwright’s video footage, which adds extra dimension and dynamics to the stage.
The cast including the ensemble certainly have put on an unmissable performance from beginning to end and one feels that they are transported from Kansas to the Emerald City and back. The acting, movements, dancing and stunts in the production are co-ordinated innovatively and harmoniously to Lucy Cullingford’s choreography and Brining’s direction.
The Wizard of Oz is a celebrated and must see Christmas/Winter treat for one and all. The Leeds Playhouse again has successfully delivered and sure will become another legendary seasonal production.