It was with some trepidation that I went to see The Wizard of Oz at the London Palladium. It holds a very special place in my heart as I’ve been involved with the show a few times on different levels (I was even a munchkin many years ago!) I was certainly not disappointed.
From the outset you could see that you were in for a quality experience – the sepia design of the opening scenes, the Zeke / The Lions belt strap hanging down as a tail at the farm, the beautiful dolls house farm, and the wonderful appearance of Miss Gulch on her bicycle (at this stage un-greenified of course). All of it was very quaint and lovely.
And then we flew, carried by projections and moving scenery, to Oz and it was just beautiful. It looked lovely, it felt lovely, the costumes were immaculate and the beauty of the lullaby league had the audience transported just as much as our heroine was.
I’ll pause there to talk about Danielle Hope. I’m biased, I admit that. I sort of didn’t want it to work, there’s a bit of me that doesn’t like ‘casting by tv show’. But she was brilliant. The strength of her vocal performance and the innocence of her character was hugely enjoyable to watch. I was won over. In a very metrosexual way I became a ‘Friend of Dorothy!’
However this is not a star strewn show carried on the backs of well known names. The entire cast were phenomenal. Michael Crawford gave a strong performance as The Wizard (albeit the role is (as it is in the original) quite small). Paul Keating was a brilliantly wobbly, energetic scarecrow, David Ganly was a funny and original lion (the part I was most concerned with, as I have done that too!!) and all credit to Edward Baker-Duly who played the Tin Man (sometimes a little lacking) with luster and wit. Emily Tierney was an extremely lovely Glinda, who had the part down to a tee (and should I think transfer to Wicked at some point because she’d be great). Almost final mention should go to Hannah Waddingham who was superlative. Her every appearance as the Wicked Witch was a joy to behold – a vampy, villainess who held us spellbound whenever and wherever she flew in. Actual final mention should go to Toto (who I think was played by Dazzle, but apologies if I’m wrong!) – Toto was amazing. Didn’t quite steal the show but gave it a good go. Equally though the way the cast handled her, passed her around and so on – extremely well done, and thoroughly enjoyable.
Back to the show then – We left the munchkins for the Emerald City, via the yellow brick road, all of which were wonderful as was the poppy field and the Wizards chamber. Then the interval and a well earned (although always shockingly priced) glass of wine. And then… ACT II, I won’t drone on but it was just as good. The witches castle was brilliant, the flying monkeys were genius and the ending sequence from start to finish was both fulfilling and wholesome, maintaining the magic and the spirit of the piece.
The lighting was exceptional – I hope that Hugh Vanstone is due for some sort of award, totally brilliant. Jon Driscoll too with his projection design made the many magical moments of the show come to life in a wonderfully artistic way. Jeremy Sands and Robert Jones (Director and Designer) are hopefully very proud. Sound design was flawless which is perhaps the perfect situation – it seemed very natural. The choreography was very tastefully done and not too over the top. Particular mention goes to the Emerald City entrance (Ha ha ha, Ho ho ho) was exceedingly good with everyone doing slightly different routines, but all working seamlessly together. Genius. I liked the news songs, although would quite like to hear them again to get used to them, but the orchestra and the delivery by everyone was faultless.
I’ll start to finish off (!) with a word to the ensemble. In this show the background cast really brought the show to life, performing every moment to the full. Energetic, acrobatic, comic, a credit to every single person involved.
So… Should you go and see The Wizard of Oz? Yes you should. It was brilliant, magical, and an entirely enjoyable evening. Take the kids, but don’t think it’s just for them – everyone will enjoy this journey over the rainbow.