Life is but a dream on the other side of the rainbow. One that we live vividly and share with others to be better understood. And a yellow brick road through which we hop joyfully, finding others to help along the way.
The return of the all-time classic The Wizard of Oz, adapted from the book by L. Frank Baum, with the music of Harold Arlen and Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by E.Y. Harburg and Tim Rice, brings new images to the well-known story of this girl from Kansas and her slightly naughty little dog. This staging has Colin Richmond as the set designer, Shay Barclay as choreographer, George Dyer as musical director, and Nikolai Foster as the director.
The story follows Dorothy, played by Georgina Onuorah, who lives in a farm with her uncle Henry, played by Geoffrey Aymer, and her aunt Em, portrayed by Jacqui Dubois. In the farm, they have the help of Hunk, played by Louis Gaunt, Hickory, by Ashley Banjo, and Zeke, by Jason Manford. They go through some problems with the neighbour Ms. Gulch, played by Dianne Pilkington. She decides to run away, felling misunderstood, and meets Professor Marvel, just before a dust storm that will change Dorothy’s life forever, when she wakes up in Munchkinland, in the land of Oz.
From there on, it will only be danger and adventures for our young protagonist and her friend Toto, brought to life in this performance by Ben Thompson. She will try to understand what is happening along the way, while trying to return home to her beloved family. She will find the help of Glinda, played by Christina Bianco, her munchkins, and three friends who will join her after she helps them by giving them hope: the Scarecrow played by Gaunt, the Tin Man, played by Banjo, and the Cowardly Lion, played by Manford. Against them is the Wicked Wizard of the West, furious with Dorothy and trying to get more power to control the realm of Oz. A threatening but, in the end, wise opponent, the Wizard of Oz presents our heroes with a seemingly impossible task that challenges them and makes them grow and learn more about themselves in the process.
Visually, the production is a feast for the eyes. Technology and creativity blend in this production where the audience will be in awe for the whole show. Elaborate sets and costumes transport the audience to the vibrant world of Oz, filled with whimsical landscapes and colourful inhabitants. From the Dorothy’s farm to the Wicked Witch’s castle, each scene is brought to life with colour and rhythm, creating a visually stunning spectacle.
The performances are remarkable, with voices and music filling the air. The amazing cast of the ensemble brings so much energy to the stage that it becomes hard to stay in place. Goosebumps arise when Onuorah sings the main song. And Pilkington, with her Wicked Witch, becomes such a strong presence, that her disappearance in the story is both welcomed, because of her wickedness, and sad, if only because it means not listening to her voice for the rest of the show. The versatility and expressivity of each one of the characters in marvellous, and combines beautifully with the videos designed by Douglas O’Connell, which project in and around the stage, merging with the action and the set flawlessly.
This is, undoubtedly, a perfect show, with rhythm, charisma, and glow. Unmissable.
Playing until 3rd September, https://lwtheatres.co.uk/whats-on/the-wizard-of-oz/
Reviewer: Gonzalo Sentana
Reviewed: 12th July 2023
North West End UK Rating: