Left – Jemma Rix. Cover – Anthony Warlow. Photos – Jeff Busby
How often do you have the opportunity to relive your childhood, with your own adult ‘child’ next to you? Jam packed with an audience that ranged from ‘embryo to outbryo’, the capacious Lyric Theatre, QPAC, sighed with expectation as the ‘overture, curtain, lights’ took us away into a fantasyland of imagination and creativity. The scene is set (Robert Jones, Scenic and Costume Designer, let me praise you in my first paragraph) and the magic commences. Enter the pooch, yes, a total Toto; you can feel the love in the crowd from the first sigh – the first of so many sighs, laughs, gasps, cheers, and general gobsmacked gestural responses.
The storm’s a brewin’ and the set is moving and Dorothy (Samantha Dodemaide, more Dorothy than Dorothy, can this be at all possible?) belts out Over the Rainbow with Toto in tow, bringing the house down (pardon the pun) within the first minutes of this new production of The Wizard of Oz.
Dorothy has begun her journey and meets Professor Marvel (Anthony Warlow, exemplary performance) admitting he is “mainly magic, slightly science”, showing her the Seven Wonders of the World, from a time when wonders were truly wonderful and imagination reigned supreme. The cyclone hits (audience holds breath) and we are now part of Dorothy (and Toto’s) journey, too, as the effects created by Hugh Vanstone (Lighting Designer) and Jon Driscoll (Video/Projection Designer) are of biblical proportions, sweeping us up with their momentum, continuing throughout the entire show. Combine this with the orchestration (David Cullen, innovation-plus) and you have a wow factor eleven out of ten: the audience doesn’t take a breath until the curtain falls.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was first published in 1900, author L Frank Baum creating a story (hailed as one of the first American fairytales) which would provide a vehicle for so many adaptations therein: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new production has blitzed it; new material added, sympathetic to the original and yet seamlessly rendered, allowing a new audience to enjoy this contemporary version, without compromising past memories.
Along the Yellow Brick Road to Oz, Dorothy meets up with The Scarecrow (Eli Cooper, take a bow) who is so fluid-of-movement, I’m sure the younger audience members would swear he was a real scarecrow. Enter Tin Man (Alex Rathgeber, totally convincing) and Lion (John Xintavelonis, nailed it) and the audience is in awe. So many episodes of wonderment and how do the creative team come up with these oh-so-special effects? The twister scene alone, plus the introduction of Glinda the Good (Lucy Durack – stage and screen credits to rival someone four times her age) are so wondrous, it is worth the freight alone! Jemma Rix (Miss Gulch/Wicked Witch of the West) is so convincing and that cackle should win an award, if there was one for witchy-cackle! Munchkinland, Ding-Dong! the Witch is Dead; On the Yellow Brick Road with If I Only Had a Brain, If I Only Had a Heart and If I Only Had the Nerve, so compelling, the audience under the spell and lapping up every nuance and innuendo. Emerald City and the Scary Forest, Witch’s Castle and Wizard’s Chamber – truly amazing. Banter and snappy repartee abounds: some of my favourite lions (ha ha) are: “I’m a Dandelion... change my habits ... not be afraid of rabbits...”; “is it far? I don’t know, I normally fly...”; “She’s pretty and clueless and I want her shoeless…”
In a production of this magnitude, the creative list is long and reads like the Oscars! The Ensemble cast are all legends in their own right and the Creative team reads like a Who’s Who of stage and screen. Choreographer, Arlene Philips, the pinnacle of perfection with a list of credits to Mars. Marrying the past and the future, deconstructing and reconstructing The Wizard of Oz, the Creative team have brought a production of such magnitude, new audiences and a new generation of theatre goers will be thrilled to relive, or experience first-hand, the timeless tale of Dorothy and The Wizard of Oz.
Quote: “On a Yellow Brick Road of discovery, Jeremy Sams (Director), Arlene Phillips (choreography), Rob Jones (set and costume designer), Mick Potter (sound), David Cullen (orchestrator), and Hugh Vanstone (lighting designer) sought to create new magic within the material. For the new songs, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice joined forces to collaborate on their first new theatre project in 30 years.”
My quote: “DON’T MISS THIS SHOW!”
Andrew Lloyd Webber's London Palladium production of
The Wizard of Oz
Director Jeremy Sams
Venue: Lyric Theatre, QPAC | N/A
Dates: Until 03-12-2017
Tickets: from $49.90
Bookings: 136 246 | www.qpac.com.au
Also playing Sydney (from 30 Dec 2017), Adelaide (from 3 April 2018) and Melbourne (from 15 May 2018)