Dated 24th October 2015
By David Slater, NODA NW
Alexandra Townsend assisted by Lisa Parker
NODA Review - The Wizard of Oz
NODA Review - The Wizard of Oz
'The Wizard of Oz' is something of a hardy perennial in the musical garden and is certainly a favourite with fans of musical theatre: not for nothing are certain members of the theatrical fraternity known as 'friends of Dorothy'! 'The Wizard of Oz' occupies a peculiar place in the American imagination and its fable-like qualities don't always translate well for a British audience who can sometimes feel distanced from what really is an all-American story: full marks must go to HYT for getting to grips with this rather odd little tale and highlighting the universal themes which bubble under the surface. The award winning Hippodrome Youth Theatre always rise to the challenge and produce something special and so were well placed to tackle this huge undertaking. With a supporting cast rivalled only in numbers by 'War and Peace' and a series of technical challenges which could easily undermine a lesser outfit, HYT once again came up trumps with a superb production, thrilling yet another packed house with an extremely impressive display of musical theatre.
The most immediately impressive element of the evening to hit the audience had to be the staging, scenery and technical wizardry evident in the production. The stage looked simply wonderful in every scene; high quality scenery and props; set changes accomplished smoothly; excellent costumes and make-up; a thoughtful lighting plot; faultless work from the sound and mic team; Kirby wires helping cast members to fly on and off stage with ease... All of these technical triumphs created a production which looked polished and professional. With a sumptuous orchestral sound underpinning the events on stage, here was a show which looked and sounded superb right from curtain-up.
The familiar line-up of leading characters were all well executed by the talented cast. Amelia Denker was a confident Dorothy and was an excellent travelling companion for the evening, guiding the audience through her various adventures from Kansas to Oz and back again. James Waring was particularly good as the Scarecrow, his flexible frame suggesting the gawky, floppy nature character superbly, with an excellent straw-stuffed costume completing the picture nicely. Poppy Rigby gave a very endearing turn as the Tin Man and again, a wonderful costume helped to create a memorable character. Noah Bhimull Hilton was a sweetly humorous Cowardly Lion, looking very much the part and amusing the audience at every turn with his antics. The beatific Glinda (the Good Witch of the North, as I'm sure you all know) was played with regal splendour by Jessica Clarkson and floated about - or should one say above - proceedings with great style and finesse. The evil Wicked Witch of the West was every bit as terrifying as she should be, Eliza Edwards giving a masterclass in spiteful nastiness! Lewis Rafter's engagingly eccentric Professor Marvel/ Wizard of Oz came across very well and Callum Roberts gave another of his strong performances as Uncle Henry. There wasn't a weak link in the principal line up and along with the Munchkins, Winkies, Osians, Jitterbugs and Flying Monkeys, the stage fairly teemed with life all evening. Of particular mention, the Crows were a most amusing addition to the production and the Trees in the haunted forest also provided a chuckle or two.
This is a show which can have a tendency to drag if not handled properly (the narrative can seem to take an age to get going and as almost everyone in the audience will know what to expect, there can be a shiftless impatience abroad in the auditorium for the show to move along) but that certainly didn't happen here. One of the most memorable aspects of this presentation was the way in which the technical aspects of the show were both celebrated and helped to keep the story moving. I did think that on occasion, the flying wires were used a little indiscriminately - a case of everybody who wanted a go on them getting their two minute's worth perhaps?! - but in the end, it only added to the gaiety of the event rather than becoming tiresome: and after all, given the expense of the things, you may as well get your money's worth! Congratulations to the production team and the director for making the show come to life and for keeping things moving at a good pace.
Musically speaking, I've always found this show to be both rather thin and rather repetitive, with not even a bare handful of tunes managing to make any great impact: again, this production did its best to gild the score with some excellent vocal performances and the consistent support of an excellent orchestra. The second act in particular moved along musically with some great set pieces, culminating in a very lively finale. All in all, this was a show which succeeded in delivering an entertainment of considerable quality to a very appreciative full house: when one considers the aims of amateur dramatics, one can ask for no greater result from an evening at the theatre.