The Wizard of Oz

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The Wizard of Oz

Until January 6

Storeyhouse, Chester

www.storyhouse.com

3*

Follow the Yellow Brick Road? Well, plenty of interesting encounters en route, in the company of an exemplary cast, with lively music and dance routines (despite rather jarring gesticulation), and as a whole, the show captures the essence of the book, in the coming of age of its heroine, the

value of friendship and, well, values.

However, like another more notorious way, as far as direction and design is concerned, it is full of good intentions which do not quite work. For example, Dorothy whisked away is cleverly depicted by hoicking a model of the farm high up into the air – but why 2 of them? One in Kansas, one in Oz perhaps? And the opening scene is dangerously cluttered with the farm more the size of a shed. Later, the audience participation seems oddly chaotic, almost a last minute thought. Worst of all is the Grand Finale, the traditional magnificent transformation scene; nothing like, being as plain as could be. Such discrepancies stick out all the more (including the text which seems to diverge a lot from the original novel though that may be my memories from long, long ago) when you get excellent scenes like the one with the Jitterbug.

Moving swiftly on, in Consuelo Rolle we have an innocent yet courageous Dorothy every bit as appealing as Judy Garland; she evens sounds like her although the cast as a whole seems to go in for a Deep South accent, which had me reaching for an atlas. Natasha Bain and Kenny Thompson, good as they are portraying Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, shine all the more in Oz as Glinda and The Emerald City Guard, the latter in particular with his snazzy costumes and ebullient manner. Vice versa however with Zara Ramm, as that old meanie Miss Gulch; the Wicked Witch of the West was more boo hoo than boo hiss. Fergus Rattigan’s was a quirky turn, whether Profesor Marvel or the Great Oz, but the well-loved trio were excellent: neatly capturing all their foibles, from floppiness via jumpiness to stiffness. Ricard Colvin raised plenty of laughs, as much with improvising as being a scaredy-cat, and plenty of comedy too from Ben Oliver’s Tin Man. Best of all was Natalie Woods, a brilliant choice for the Scarecrow with her sweet singing voice and delightful depiction. And Toto, bless ‘im, was very good as well.

Summer and Winter, Storyhouse usually pull off innovative and fascinating productions, and this may come as something of a disappointment. Nevertheless, even as the show comes to the end of its run, there was a packed audience, still full of Christmas spirit who seemed to be enjoying every minute.

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