The ‘Wicked Wiz of Oz’ performed by the Chiltern Youth Theatre Company was a combination of three well known musicals, ‘Wicked’, ‘The Wiz’ and ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ The production would please fans of the aforementioned musicals with beloved songs such as ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’, ‘Popular’ and ‘For Good’ being performed beautifully by the young performers. Despite the mix of different musicals and consequently different narratives, the performance was very clearly put together and executed professionally by the members of the company. Although the songs previously mentioned are famously very well-known and musically challenging to execute, the youngsters seemed to have grabbed the challenge with both hands and appeared to be hardly phased by the challenging repertoire that was demanded of them.

Unfortunately I was not provided with a programme therefore I am unable to name the individual performer’s names, however I can specify that the performances of Elphaba, Glinda and Dorothy were particularly impressive.
At one point I did a double take to check whether Glinda was miming or whether it was a live performance. This is by no means an insult, I just found the strength and precision of her vocal performance extremely impressive for such a young lady and the maturity of her voice is very promising for a young performer just at the beginning of her career. Also, a beautifully rich performance of ‘The Wizard and I’ by Elphaba also left me quite shocked by the talent within this group of such young performers. Once again, a very confident and convincing performance of a challenging song that highlighted to me the special talent within this group.

It was a shame that at times the volume of the music was excessive and unfortunately managed to overpower the vocal performances. Although all performers had an impressive set of lungs on them, it was hard for them to compete against the volume of the music and, particularly as I was situated near the back of the theatre, they were at times drowned out. This may not have been the case in a bigger theatre as the sound may have balanced out more evenly, but due to the intimacy of The Epstein, balance is important and was often misjudged throughout the performance.

W. C. Fields is quoted to have coined the well-known phrase ‘Never work with children or animals,’ and this only partly came to pass in this performance. The children cannot be criticised. As a whole, they took to the stage with great awareness of themselves, the audience and their responsibility to entertain, however the same cannot be said for the dog that played the role of Toto. The young lady who played Dorothy must be commended for her mature and subtle control of the dog although it was clear he was becoming a bit of a task, especially throughout her performance of ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow.’ The vocal performance was very exposed and yet despite the distracting dog she was able to capture the audience’s attention and deliver a beautiful rendition of the song, which again was very impressive due to her age.

I can imagine it is very tasking to choreograph such young performers, especially when so many of them are on stage at one time, but this was predominantly carried out without a glitch. Minus the occasional collision and poor Elphaba’s head being struck by a descending black screen, the staging ran quite smoothly. The portrayal of the storm taken from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ was particularly impressive. Very intelligently choreographed and an effective dramatic ending to the first half.

Overall a very impressive performance from the company that has clearly taken a lot of hard work, practice and dedication. It is clear to see the talent that is nurtured and celebrated and a big well done should be awarded to all the young performers who worked so hard to entertain us. I have no doubt many will have successful careers to come and I hope to see some familiar faces in the future as fully established performers!

Reviewer: Sarah Goldsmith
Reviewed: 23rd January 2016