The Wizard of Oz Review

Grand Opera House York –  until 5th May 2018

Reviewed by Catherine McWilliams

4****

As the excellent orchestra struck up the overture with all the familiar song themes, I settled into my seat ready to be entertained and the Pick Me Up Theatre Company delivered just what I wanted. This production is true to the film (being the adaption by John Kane for the Royal Shakespeare Company), a very traditional tale of good prevailing over evil with all the songs you would expect. In some ways this is a very gentle and nostalgic production (complete with a real Toto), it has none of the sharpness that modern musicals sometimes have, but it does not suffer for that.

The story starts in Kansas as Dorothy (Emily Chattle) runs away having fallen out with her Aunt Em (Alexandra Mather) and Uncle Henry (Finn East), she then gets caught up in the tornado and lands in Oz, where her troubles begin, she defeats the wicked witch and she realises that “there is no place like home”.

Emily Chattle is very believable as Dorothy with just the right amount of wide- eyed innocence and enthusiasm and she delivers all her songs beautifully, particularly Over The Rainbow.

Adam Sowter plays an excellent baddie as Miss Gulch/Wicked Witch of the West, my young companion described him as slightly goofy and like a cartoon witch and I have to say I preferred this to the witch in the film, far more suitable for the family audience.

Dorothy’s companions Scarecrow (Stuart Rae), Tin Man (Joe McNeice)and Lion (Nick Lewis) were perfect in their roles, adding fun and gelling beautifully with Dorothy as they followed the yellow brick road.

Alexandra Mather’s Glenda was beautifully saccharine, Finn East’s Guard suitably silly and Ian Giles an excellent Wizard of Oz.

The production fairly zips along with slick scene changes and numerous costume changes for the supporting cast. The scenery and lighting were excellent, although I think someone may have got a little carried away with the smoke and I wonder if this interfered with the view from the stalls, it was fine in the Dress Circle. The costumes were fabulous, I particularly liked the flying monkeys and the hipster guys in Oz. The nod to Busby Berkeley in the poppy scene was inspired.

Pick Me Up Theatre are an amateur company but this was a truly professional performance, an excellent night out for all the family.

Finally the poster and back drop for the stage were wonderful, very 30s, but sadly I cannot find who to credit. Oh and I’m kicking myself that I didn’t ask for a poster for my wall!

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