Review -The Wizard of Oz Australian Premiere: A magical journey
Above: There's no place like home. Right: Anthony Warlow as The Wizard
Photos by Jeff Busby.
The Wizard of Oz: Australian Premiere
Music by Harold Arlen: lyrics by E.Y. Harburg.
Additional lyrics by Tim Rice: Additional music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Directed by Jeremy Sams
Choreographer Arlene Philips
Musical Director Laura Tipoki
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new production
Presented by John Frost and Suzanne Jones and The Production Company
Queensland Performing Arts Centre
Season: November 9-December 3. Duration: Two hours 20 minutes including interval. Bookings: qpac.com.au or 136 346
Question: How often can you watch a musical that is based on a 1939 MG movie musical?
Answer: As often as they revamp the story the amazing way this production was.
What a magical re-interpretation it is. You will be smiling all the way home when you leave the theatre.
Jon Driscoll’s video designs were truly spectacular – and the trip through the tornado tunnel positively scary. It was the video effects and Hugh Vanstone’s brilliant lighting that added extra bounce to the familiar story. But it was not only that, it was stroke of brilliance from the original producers to add songs for the witches and the Wizard himself.
They were finely in tune with the rest of the music and sung into the plot and character. They were very clever pieces of writing. Although Over the Rainbow is still THE show stopper.
The story line of course was untouched: A tornado rips through Kansas, Dorothy and her dog, Toto, are whisked away in their house to the magical Land of Oz. They follow the Yellow Brick Road toward the Emerald City to meet the Wizard, and en route they meet a Scarecrow that needs a brain, a Tin Man missing a heart, and a Cowardly Lion who wants courage. The wizard asks the group to bring him the broom of the Wicked Witch of the West to earn his help.
But this time the character interpretations were different and I loved them. There were a few one-liners thrown in that were as corny as Kansas itself but they all added to the fun and light-heartedness of the show.
The stuffy goodie two-shoe Glinda, was good, but so cool, she would have been at home in Clueless (I was half expecting a “whatever” at any time) and Lucy Durack gave her the right spark. Jemma Rix was back in green to play the Wicked Witch of the West and the nasty Miss Gulch. What a gloriously evil laugh she has. She had a funny moments, but was still wicked enough to scare the kids.
With Anthony Warlow playing the Wizard and Professor Marvel it was an obvious thing to give him a song or two – and he made the most of the great Wonders of the World , You Went to see the Wizard and Farewell to Oz.
Eli Cooper was Hunk/Scarecrow, Alex Rathgeber Hickory and the Tin Man and John Xintavelonis was Zeke and the Lion. They are three characters you can’t mess with but even with them there were some cheeky new one-liners thrown in to great effect.
Of course we have the pivotal role of Dorothy and I thought Samantha Dodemaide was terrific. I loved her feisty young girl, pugnacious and full of guts and determination and yet still sweetly innocent. She has a fine voice too. There were no flies on Toto either. I’m not sure whether it was Trouble or Flick, but whichever, he was adorable and perfectly behaved.
The choreography was outstanding, especially with the Munchkins in the opening Oz sequence. And the ensemble never missed a beat in an energy filled series of routines.
When the magical set and highly effective costuming was added to the mix of lights and action the result was an almost cinematic vision that still managed to be a stage production.
It is s show filled with fun and enjoyment and I’m sure everyone will love it whether it’s the first or fifth time on a trip to Oz.
Glinda, Dorothy and friends and, below, The Wicked Witch of the West and evil cohorts.