A mag­i­cal re­turn to Oz

Adapted by John Kane from the novel by L. Frank Baum Mu­sic and lyrics: Harold Arlen and E.Y. Har­burg Di­rec­tor: Robert Hastie Cru­cible Theatre, Nor­folk Street, Sh­effield (0114-249 6000) Un­til 20 Jan­uary Run­ning time: 2hrs 30mins (in­clud­ing in­ter­val)

The Week - - Front Page -

The Cru­cible has es­tab­lished a fine Christ­mas tra­di­tion in re­cent years of stag­ing first-rate pro­duc­tions of clas­sic mu­si­cals, said Ron Simp­son on What­son­stage. com. And with The Wizard of Oz, new artis­tic di­rec­tor Robert Hastie has pulled off another cracker. “As lav­ish as it is imag­i­na­tive,” this “op­u­lent, slick and un­fail­ingly en­joy­able” Oz boasts a vast cast of 22 (not in­clud­ing Munchkins), a lively and ver­sa­tile ten-piece band, fab­u­lous sets and fizzing chore­og­ra­phy. Ev­ery­where you look there’s “in­ven­tive­ness”, said Veron­ica Lee in The Daily Tele­graph. The poppy field where the Wicked Witch of the West lures Dorothy is peo­pled with dancers in lurid green py­ja­mas singing a lul­laby. The fly­ing mon­keys whizz around on roller skates. Toto is a real dog in Kansas, but be­comes an “ut­terly be­guil­ing” pup­pet once we’re in Munchkin­land. It all adds up to a “pow­er­ful, en­er­getic and mov­ing” show, mag­nif­i­cently staged.

In Gabrielle Brooks, the pro­duc­tion has a Dorothy as “warm and bright as sun­shine, with a voice that sends you soar­ing over the rain­bow”, said Sam Mar­lowe in The Times. And the other big star of the show is Janet Bird’s set de­sign. A sim­ple clap­board house and wash­ing lines neatly sug­gest Dorothy’s Kansas home. But when the cy­clone strikes, and the Wicked Witch flies into the air on her broom­stick, the Cru­cible’s vast cir­cu­lar stage rises up and “flips open like a book’s pages, re­veal­ing a neon-glowing Oz”. It’s quite a mo­ment.

There are “ex­hil­a­rat­ing big-band dance num­bers” from the on­stage band, said Mark Shen­ton in The Stage. And Ewan Jones’s “play­ful and ath­let­i­cally pro­pelled chore­og­ra­phy cre­ates lav­ish set pieces like a fan­tas­tic jit­ter­bug bal­let”. As for the sup­port­ing per­for­mances, it’s an em­bar­rass­ment of riches, said Clare Bren­nan in The Ob­server. An­drew Langtree’s straw-floppy Scare­crow; Max Parker’s pup­pet-jointed Tin Man; Jonathan Broad­bent’s Cow­ardly Lion – all com­bine “pic­ture-book clar­ity and emo­tional heft”. Else­where, there’s some neat dou­bling. And Brooks as Dorothy “ex­presses the per­fect com­bi­na­tion of in­no­cence and won­der”.

Gabrielle Brooks: warm and bright

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