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 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”.