While Nikolai Foster’s production is a lot of fun and has plenty of energy, it feels as though it is slightly missing the magic that you would expect.

(c)Marc Brenner

Filled with optimism and energy, there is no doubting that this revival of The Wizard of Oz will delight and charm younger audiences – but somehow it feels as though it is lacking magic to make you feel as though you are in Oz.

Taking audiences from Kansas to the land of Oz, the story of course follows that of Dorothy who ends up in this futuristic styled version of Oz thanks to a pesky tornado and sees her embarking on adventure to try and find her way home again – with the help of the friends she meets along the way.

As well as the songs from the beloved 1939 film by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, there are new additional songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice which are ok but don’t quite provide the same level of joy as the original songs do and feel a bit shoe horned in. Equally, Nikolai Foster’s production seems to mix a range of styles and makes it feels as though it is conflicted with itself. Of course, you could argue that the brilliancy of L.Frank Baum’s story is the fact that it leaves the door open for many different types of adaptation and this means you can have plenty of fun with it – as evidenced by the fact that Glinda arrives not by bubble but a vespa styled vehicle and the Wicked Witch of the West’s flying monkeys come complete with helmets that make them look like Hells Angels.

This being said, Foster has ensured that it has a lot of energy and pace to it that keeps the audience thoroughly invested in the characters and story unfolding in front of them, helped effectively by Douglas O’Connell’s impressive video designs which enhance in particular the slightly scarier moments in the story. Praise should also be given to Rachel Canning’s costume and puppet design (Toto is such a wonderful little character in this puppet form) which really embraces the madness of the style of the production.

However, I just felt that as family friendly as this production is, visually it was still just lacking some of the magic that you would expect with scenes such as the way in which Dorothy arrives in Oz and the way in which the yellow brick road is only slightly highlighted in sections shaped into arrows just lacking in the magic I would have expected.

The cast, as you would expect really give absolutely everything that they have got into making each of the characters their own. Georgina Onuorah as Dorothy is certainly a force to be reckoned with, able to make her own mark on the character by giving her a strong personality that adds depth and understanding of her journey in terms of her personality. I adored Jason Manford’s take on the cowardly lion, which plays a lovely tribute to Bert Lahr’s performance in the 1939 film and guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Making his West End debut as the Tin Man, we were lucky to catch Marley Fenton, who carried out Ashley Banjo’s additional choreography for ‘If I Only Had a Heart’ with great panache and confidence. Christina Bianco and Dianne Pilkington as Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the West spar beautifully together, while Gary Wilmot adds great charm to the role of the Wizard.

While the production might be lacking some of the magic expected, it is still an entertaining evening that will keep young audiences happy.

By Emma Clarendon

The Wizard of Oz continues to play at the London Palladium until the 3rd September. To book tickets click here.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐


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