Tale as old as time, a show like the The Wizard of Oz needs no introduction. Buried in the deep depths of one's subconscious are the songs of this age old musical-singing along, as though triggered like muscle memory as you hear them float through the arena. I still tear up when I hear a beautiful rendition of 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' and I implore you to find a person who hasn't got a significant memory attached to this song.
Although the stage is simplistic it didn't need much to create an exciting atmosphere as the lighting and imagery on the screens behind build a real three dimensional illusion. As we waited for the show to begin the backdrop shines with tiny little light effects that float through the screen like dozens of little fire flies. When the twister rips through we are delighted to hear the children pointing out the flurry of flying objects wrapped up in the wind! Regardless of age or prior knowledge of plot, it is always fun to see a cow becoming airborne.
“I have a feeling we're not in Kansas any more” rings out from the lips of the warm hearted Dorothy (Carly Bettinson) as she confides in her basket bound Toto. She is met by a very effervescent Glinda (Aurelie Roque) who I have to say really put the North back in 'Witch of the North' with her very authentic North-Western accent. Hard to pick if you're not well versed in the sound but the subtle humour was not lost on this gal who spent many years abroad in the North. It's one of the things that is so exciting about an adaptation – so many tiny factors that are missed on some but music to the ears of others. Truly, there is always something for everyone in theatre.
You may have seen a performance of The Wizard of Oz, but doubtful that you have seen one quite like this, with a cast and crew that outnumbers anything I have ever encountered. I was prepared for the masses but not the hilarity of the Munchkin invasion that ensued! The sheer volume of Munchkins big and very, VERY little, emerging from every angle and filling every available space in the most exciting flash-mob! It's worth watching for this on it's own! Not even an unfortunate technical glitch (forcing them to stop and hold for a few minutes mid-Munchkin scene) could tarnish the fantastical feat it took to choreograph that many young ones! Nobody wants to hit a bump on the yellow brick road of opening night but even after the announcement of the hold, all the crowd could do was applaud and cheer the cast and crew on as they had to freeze and reboot. Not a harsh word from the crowd and I was proud to hear my own tiny entourage say “Yes! We get to see the song again!” The show must go on! Big applause to the whole team for picking up and roaring on with twice the zeal and power and to the Wicked Witch (Bil Heit) for cracking a few sly jokes ad-lib to get the crowd and cast back into the swing. Credit given to her for putting the fear in us with her exceptionally wicked trademark laugh too! A good lesson for all when life throws you a curve ball: you just gotta pick up, dust of your broom and get back on that yellow brick road!
You grow ever-more attached as the brave and hopeful Dorothy finds her friends along the way. The wonderfully heart-warming Scarecrow (Chris Geoghegan) with his liquid-like clumsiness; the lovable Tinman (Michael Nunn) who was equally opposite, making you feel his rusty movements and finally the fuzzy-feeling-fuelled Lion (Josh Witten) who looked like someone had pimped-up a teddy bear with the personality to match. The fantastic four arm-in-arm as they skip towards the Emerald City to seek their heart's desires from the all powerful Oz. A seasoned professional John Wood takes on the role of the Wizard and his voice boomed over the four as he orders them to face their fears and bring him the broom of the Wicked Witch of the West. Delivered with all the freakish feels of a horror classic, only his eyes and mouth are visible from an illusion of swinging televisions that hang ominously over our brainless, heartless, cowardly and homeless heroes. The road's not easy as they traverse a heaving human-sea of poppies and are infected by a hazardous haul of Jitter bugs! What an amazing way to utilise a few hundred extra cast! I really can't stress enough just how huge a task it must be to get that many people in one space, let alone have them perform and dance. Hats off to Callum Mansfield (Choreographer) who worked with a handful of Mass Captains to create a truly remarkable experience that filled the aisles and the hearts of the audience.
It's not how well you know the story that keeps you coming back to an old classic, it's how it's told, retold, redone and re-igniting the new generation that makes the difference. Harvest Rain (with the Direction of Tim O'Connor) have such a wonderful way of doing this through their productions and The Wizard of Oz is no exception. So much work is put in just to put the extra sparkle back in those ruby red slippers. Whether it is your first or your fiftieth time being swept away in this classic it won't fail to trigger (or create) that muscle memory of wanting to seek what is over the rainbow...
Harvest Rain presents
The Wizard of Oz
Director Tim O'Connor
Venue: Brisbane Entertainment Centre |1 Melaleuca Drive, Boondall QLD
Dates: 12 - 13 July 2019
Also Touring –
Adelaide (October 2019) and Sydney (January 2020)