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The Wizard Of Oz – Curve Theatre

There are usually, broadly speaking, two large demographics of patrons at a family show like The Wizard of Oz – children and their responsible accompanying adults. The best family shows have both camps coming away feeling as though they’ve enjoyed proceedings. There’s a third group that I couldn’t help noticing at the performance I attended at Curve – adults without children, and I don’t just mean reviewers who didn’t want to bring anyone with them to Leicester on a six-hour round trip on coaches on account of a railway strike (ahem). That’s the thing about Oz – such is its broad appeal that it attracts the wide audience that most productions in most theatres would love to have coming through their doors.

Paul French (Tin Man), Jonny Fines (Scarecrow) and Giovanni Spanó (Lion) - Photography by Marc Brenner.
Paul French (Tin Man), Jonny Fines (Scarecrow) and Giovanni Spanó (Lion) – Photography by Marc Brenner.

A futuristic feel dominates the show, though I hasten to add this is largely in terms of video graphics and projections (Douglas O’Connell, who surely deserves an award or two, or several, for such astonishing work here), lest anyone should think Dorothy (Georgina Onuorah) gets an Uber ride along the Yellow Brick Road, let alone teleported. (What would be the fun in that?) Toto (Ben Thompson) is – spoiler alert – a puppet, which, aside from concerns about animals being exposed to the sights and sounds of a full-blown musical in a city centre theatre, allows the audience to concentrate more widely on what’s going on: call me a Scrooge if you must, but I quite like being able to hear dialogue instead of it being drowned out by ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ by the audience cooing over an actual dog on stage.

The moving images are borderline cinematic, often taking up the entire stage space: this is not a production that does things by halves. Lopping a good twenty minutes or more off the running time of this Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jeremy Sams adaptation compared to its previous incarnation at the London Palladium, it’s the right length, and it proceeds at the right pace, telling the story comprehensively without ever giving the feeling that it’s a bit slow because it’s a story of its time.

But the technology can be low-key when it wants to be, most notably when the Wicked Witch of the East (Ellie Mitchell at the performance I attended, Charlotte Jaconelli being indisposed) is melting largely because she says she is, Dorothy having deployed one of those water sprays used by hairdressers in the witch’s general direction. It’s hilarious but it works. It’s a bit much to say it’s worth going to see just for that, and it’s a bit early to have been wished a Merry Christmas at curtain call, although Jonny Fines’ Scarecrow did, to be fair, say so himself.

Vocally speaking, Christina Bianco’s Glinda (that is, the Good Witch of the South) steals the show, even if her car and costume calls to mind Penelope Pitstop in Wacky Races. Together with Scarecrow, Paul French’s Tin Man and Giovanni Spanó’s Lion are sublime as supporting characters, with convincing stage presences both individually and collectively. George Dyer has arranged and conducted several Curve musical productions, always to an excellent standard (well, the ones I’ve seen, anyway). He’s done it again here, in a show that encompasses a wide range of musical styles and tempos.

Confident and assured, it’s difficult not to be blown away (pun acknowledged but not intended – and if you believe that, that’s your prerogative) by this slick and energetic production.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

The much-loved and magical story of The Wizard of Oz, spectacularly retold in our Made at Curve Christmas musical.

Directed by Curve Artistic Director Nikolai Foster (Billy Elliot The Musical, A Chorus Line, West Side Story) and featuring additional music and songs from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice alongside the iconic originals from the MGM film, join Dorothy and Toto as they are swept up from Kansas and transported over the rainbow to the re-imagined technicolour wonderland of Oz… where nothing is quite as it seems.

On her adventure along the Yellow Brick Road Dorothy meets Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion who help her on her way, but he villainous and frightfully glamorous Wicked Witch has other plans for Dorothy and Toto.

Through the menacing Dark Forest to the bright neon lights of the retro-futuristic Emerald City, Dorothy and her friends search for the powerful and mysterious Wizard of Oz, the only person who can grant their hearts’ desires, and maybe even a way home.

Music by Harold Arlen
Lyrics by E.Y. Harburg
Additional Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Additional Lyrics by Tim Rice
Adaption by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jeremy Sams
Orchestrations by David Cullen
Orchestrations adapted by George Dyer

From the book by L. Frank Baum

Director Nikolai Foster
Choreographer Shay Barclay
Musical Director and Musical Supervisor George Dyer
Set Designer Colin Richmond
Projection Designer Douglas O’Connell
Costume and Puppet Designer Rachael Canning
Lighting Designer Ben Cracknell
Sound Designer Adam Fisher
Magic Consultant Scott Penrose
Casting Director Kay Magson CDG
Props Supervisor Marcus Hall Props
Costume Supervisor Anna Josephs
Wigs, Hair and Makeup Designer Elizabeth Marini
Production Manager Patrick Molony
Associate Choreographer Kate Ivory Jordan
Associate Director Christopher Key
Choreography Supervisor Ebony Molina
Associate Sound Designer Lara Windsor
RTYDS resident assistant director Lilac Yosiphon
Fight Director Jonathan Holby

THE WIZARD OF OZ
SAT 19 NOV 2022 – SUN 8 JAN 2023
https://www.curveonline.co.uk/

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