6th November 2023
A vibrant, fun if amusingly bizarre re-imagining of the beloved childhood film.
This lively adaptation of the Wizard of Oz at St Helens Theatre Royal is fun and unique in its execution.
The show loosely follows the tale of Dorothy’s journey (played by Mia Molloy) down the yellow brick road. We meet the Scarecrow (Reece Sibbald), the Tin man (Harry Moore) and the cowardly Lion (Timothy Lucus) along the way and make it to the dazzling emerald city in time for ice cream at the interval.
In the second half, Dorothy and her friends conquer the wicked witch (Samantha Plain) and, after an unusual and unrelated interlude of a choreographed neon puppet circus, the wonderful Wizard of Oz (James Lusted) is revealed for who he truly is, a phoney. Dorothy and Toto, with help from Glinda (Abigail Middleton) and the ruby slippers, return home in one piece which is where the story ends.
While the performance often strayed away from the plot and was sometimes slow-moving in its delivery, the tale concludes with good triumphing over evil and the audience head home with the feel-good message that the only magic you need, self-belief.
Where the production lacks in plot coherency, it makes up for in good staging. The set design is beautifully created and transports the audience to a magical world. The dazzling costumes brought vivid energy and singalong chart hits dispersed throughout the performance gave the production a light-hearted feel.
Clever choreography was also central to the show and the great dance performance from the juvenile dancers (Nazene Danielle’s Dance Dynamix and Attitude Dance) must also be noted. The performance also brings a lot of pantomime fun and Chantelle Nolan (director and producer) and Jane Joseph (producer) also utilise many recognisable panto techniques. There are slapstick routines, big solo musical numbers and the show is not short of audience participation. It has the ‘cringe factor’ which is so familiar to panto and watch out if you sit on the front row!
Characterisation is greatly important in such a well-known story and it was interesting to see the cast’s interpretation. Reese Sibbard’s performance of the Scarecrow, for example, was very entertaining, and the script allowed his character many puns and one-liners, bringing the classic bawdy panto humour to life. He was greatly amusing even if several punch lines were perhaps a little too crude and politically close to the line.
On the other hand, some of the other characters were a bit underdeveloped. The Wicked Witch and Dorothy had great potential as both actors had incredible singing voices (which could have been utilised even more) however, their characterisations were not very strong.
Dorothy despite her position as the central protagonist was overpowered and arguably forgettable. While the Wicked Witch had a significant stage presence, the character’s contribution to the plot was insignificant and she caused little opposition to Dorothy’s quest. While Toto (played by the dog Buddy) was a cute addition, he was little unnecessary to the performance. All characters had their strengths and weaknesses but on the whole, the show was what you expect- fun, silly, a flamboyant pantomime.
The Wizard of Oz is a predominantly family orientated show and for children, the clownish scenes and exciting visual effects are greatly enjoyable. If you are after some classic pantomime entertainment, The Wizard of Oz is a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.
The show is running until the 23rd of February and more infomation can be found at http://www.sthelenstheatreroyal.com/