Review – Wizard of Oz


December 13 2018

By Jo Henwood

Pic: Storyhouse

In May this year, when the first sights of the glorious summer sun started shining, the Storyhouse team took to the skies to announce their Christmas show. A plane trailing a “Surrender Dorothy”  banner revealed that we would be treated to a festive family favourite.

The organised amongst us will have booked their tickets then and the rest will now be running around like a tornado to grab any remaining seats for this classic ‘coming of age’ tale of the young Dorothy Gale.

Fresh out of drama college, Consuela Rolle is a delight as the iconic Dorothy with a determination anyone who has every lived with a teenage daughter will recognise. Deliberately meek as the Kansas youngster dreaming of a land somewhere over that legendary rainbow she visibly grows throughout the show to follow that brick road and eventually appreciate what she already has.

Natalie Woods has no backbone for her role of as The Scarecrow, which makes her the perfect first friend that Dorothy meets on her travels. Flipping, flopping, tumbling and rolling her way down the Yellow Brick Road she lost legs, arms and stuffing but never any of the joy that she brought to the stage throughout. Along with Ben Oliver as the rickety Tin Man and Richard Colvin as the faint hearted Lion, the trio are perfect companions on Dorothy’s Wizard-quest.

On the night I went, the fifth member of the road running gang, Toto, was a placid and polite-looking Bailey who was making his acting debut on the Storyhouse stage. Only twice did he steal the show!

Other show-stealers were the talented youngsters from the House of Dance as maybe Minion Munchkins. It is no surprise that choreographer Carl Parris has impressive West End credits and this Chester-based hip-hopping crew would not be out of place on the set of the RSC’s Matilda the Musical.

A Christmas show wouldn’t be a Christmas show without a baddie and Zara Ramm as the dreaded dog destroyer Miss Gulch and then The Wicked Witch of the West had the audience hissing and booing with the best of them. With plans to kill Dorothy, involving a tortuously slowly filling bucket, she certainly has a dark side but there were times from my seat at the back of the stalls that I couldn’t actually see her. Lighting designer Prema Mehta and production designer James Perkins are inspired with their abstract Yellow Brick Road and use all sorts of sassy stagecraft to portray the tornado, the wily Wizard, snow and a poppy field but the absence of light, as described in the programme notes, had me struggling at times.

The show lasted almost three hours on the night I went, which may be a little too long for the littlest people but I guess that the beginning of the second act will develop more pace as the run continues.

Director Alex Clifton chose the Wizard of Oz for Storyhouse’s second Christmas show because of its Yuletide tradition and his dream of create a perfect mix of love, delight and laughs has worked out just right. The Scarecrow says that some people with no brain do an awful lot of talking. In an era when some people with no heart make very important decisions and others with no courage do an awful lot of roaring now is definitely the time to wish upon a star.

If I were you I would just tap the heels of your best red shoes and follow that road to Storyhouse for a jewel of a show this Christmas.

The Wizard of Oz is at Storyhouse until January 6. Tickets are available from the Storyhouse website

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