The Wizard of Oz is one of history’s greatest films – and few would disagree. This evening I was incredibly excited to go and see the RSC’s version of the show as performed by Wimbledon Light Opera Society. The RSC version is incredibly close to the film, and in my opinion this is the exact way to go with the stage show. Following Dorothy up one very long yellow brick road with three friends and a dog, all hoping to meet the Wonderful Wizard of Oz and be granted their wishes, all the while fending off the Wicked Witch of the West is without a doubt one of the greatest stories every told.
The production value of this show would not be out of place on any West End stage. The sets and costumes were both of the very highest quality, and WLOS should be commended on their commitment and ambition, it is clearly a project they had a lot of faith in, and rightly so. Also congratulations to the makeup team, who managed to create work in-keeping with the very high quality of the costumes.
The Lighting Design by Andrew James was absolutely perfect for the show, and the tactical lighting for scene changes was a real technical support to the stage crew. The show was a true visual spectacle.
For my personal preference, the use of mobile phones was completely unnecessary and did not work, the story is timeless, that farm in Kansas could have been at any time in the last century, and this feature placed it uncomfortably modern. Flashes of modernism shouldn’t be done unless they add to the narrative, and in this case it didn’t, it just felt like a director desperate to stand out - but that is just one man’s opinion. Aside from this, the show was very well directed by Angela Daniel, particularly the first Act.
Abbie Minnock as Dorothy was a true leading lady, keeping the whole cast and narrative moving together, and gave an emotional performance where called upon.
Sean Anderson, Jason Thomas and Russell Bramley as Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion (respectively) provided a trio of loveable and hilarious sidekicks for Minnock - all three were a pleasure to watch.
An incredibly enjoyable performance this evening came from Charlotte Fisher as the Wicked Witch of the West. Fisher delivered with confidence, and has acting ability in spades. Interestingly, I also craved more singing from Fisher than the part has written, for me she was also the standout vocal performance in the small part she sang for ‘Jitterbug’.
Congratulations to the children of Team Emerald, who were all magnificent, and made fabulous munchkins! Team Ruby have a lot to live up to this week, and I’m sure they will be just as marvellous!
Choreographer Vicki Rice kept the large group routines basic, meaning that everyone was able to take part, with a really high quality tap routine in ‘Merry Old land of Oz’ and a really inventive routine to ‘Jitterbug’. I thoroughly enjoyed the choreography.
The standout performance for this evening was the orchestra- a wealth of 19 musicians, it is a very tricky score, and a lot to live up to in this version, as the orchestration is very similar to that of the 1939 movie. The orchestra played these classics with great dynamics, and captured the nostalgia brilliantly! Congratulations to Musical Director Sam Fisher, and his entire team.
This show could easily have reached the next level with a little more time spent on the singing. Unfortunately the singing fell well below the level of the rest of the show. The vocals in the group numbers were weak and low in energy, and none of the solo numbers gave any kind of wow factor either.
I enjoyed my night watching a visual spectacle, in a beautiful theatre, and WLOS must be commended for their effort. From the moment the overture began I was in a world of nostalgia, and I couldn’t stop smiling all the way until the end.
Reviewer: Andrew Lee
Reviewed: 23rd October 2019
North West End UK Rating: ★★★