Casting a new spell
FIRST NIGHT THE WIZARD OF OZ STEPHANIE GLICKMAN
THE yellow brick road has rolled into Melbourne for this popular version of The Wizard of Oz that has been touring Australia since last year.
It’s a recently conceived version that premiered in London in 2011 and features new songs by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.
While classics like Follow the Yellow Brick Road and Over The Rainbow standout, what is most memorable here is the eye-popping set by Robert Jones that combines video (by Jon Driscoll) with three-dimensional structures to create a very dynamic journey through the dreary browns of Kansas, to the blues of the Munchkinland to the green glow of Emerald City.
An overarching rainbow with changing colours and ever-shifting constructions of flowers, clocks and forests make for lots to marvel at in this familiar tale that stays on script to L. Frank Baum’s story.
While some will argue that the show’s real stars are lookalike terriers Flick and Trouble sharing the role of Toto, the humans are just as good, al- though possibly not as cute.
Jemma Rix amps up her nasty Wicked Witch to delightfully shrill levels.
Lucy Durack brings a splash of sass to the saccharine Good Witch while up-and-comer Samantha Dodemaide as Dorothy is a steady lead, building emotion as her journey becomes more complex.
Veteran Anthony Warlow holds down Professor Marvel/ Wizard with polished aplomb and Eli Cooper, Alex Rathgeber and John Xintavelonis have heaps of fun with the foibles of Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion respectively.
The two one-hour acts amble along at a tight pace that children, especially, can stay engaged. Bigger ensemble dance numbers in Munchkinland and the gates of Oz interject good old razzle dazzle.
The Wizard of Oz is solid, and ticks all the boxes of musical theatre. It’s by-the-numbers approach can sometimes render it overstylised, but the creators have wisely opted for the tried and true.
Considering the show’s original song book (by Arlen and Harburg) is so eternal and the contemporary visuals are magic unto themselves, this show’s audiences will wind their way to the wizard.
The cast of The Wizard of Oz at the Regent Theatre; and (below left) Simone Callahan last night. Pictures: JAKE NOWAKOWSKI, JASON EDWARDS