13th Dec, 2018

Follow the Yellow Brick Road to the Birmingham Rep for cracking Wizard of Oz

Bromsgrove Editorial 30th Nov, 2018 Updated: 2nd Dec, 2018

THE Wizard Of Oz at The Rep was both over the rainbow and out of this world.

This is one humdinger of a show and the best seasonal fare the REP has proffered in years. Even if like me you a hardened ‘Wizard of Oz’ watcher, you’ll be enchanted by this new take.

Angela Davies’s design makes Dorothy’s original Kansas house transform itself into everything from the wicked witch of the west’s castle to the Emerald City and back again in seamless transitions.

This is clever, making it all one possible dream. She is supported by Nick Richings’s lighting design where he uses an intense and vivid spectrum of colours to not only point beacons of light towards us in a kaleidoscopic cacophony, but also pencil outlines every piece of scenery. Of course this needs to be witnessed first hand to fully appreciate both the magic and the cleverness of this approach.

Dorothy is played to petulant and feisty perfection by Chisara Agor. Also on ‘Team Dorothy’ is Kelly Agbowu as the Lion, who may be in search of courage but brings the house down with the power of her vocals along the journey.

Ed Wade who makes a nicely laughable and lovable scarecrow and completing the trio, Dillon Scott-Lewis as an athletic tin man – once oiled of course. Having only recently graduated from Guilford School of Acting this must be a huge role for him and he rises confidently to the challenge.

Shinay Holmes performs a lovely warm double as Glinda the Good Witch and Aunty Em whilst Jos Vantyler is her polar opposite in character, but equal in talent, as the hateful Miss Gulch and the evil Wicked Witch of the West. Lorna Laidlaw also gives us a delicious double as Professor Marvel and the Great Oz herself.

The rest of this talented company work solidly in harmony and in a multitude of roles to bring us a night of joy. As such Rhys Batten, Jade Davies, Luke Fraser Yates, Zak Nemorin, Kerri Norville, Elisha Sherman, Emily Squibb and Thomas Vernal are all worthy of mention.

Toto starts and ends as a real dog – I watched Rio (one of three adorable ‘Totos’) play the role on Press Night. In the middle, an almost human dog puppet takes over – brilliantly operated by Ben Thompson who is also the puppet captain.

Samuel Wyer designed the life-like puppets and spectacular costumes– that includes the Munchkins, the talking trees, the enchanting giant poppies and the absolutely terrifying giant ghouls.

There is flying, there is fighting, there is new clever funny dialogue, great singing, a super band and never once in this fairly long show does the evening drag.  My only one criticism is that the curtain call is too quick – the audience were getting to their feet to give a standing ovation as the curtain closed. No doubt this will addressed – after all, it’s thoroughly deserved.

Director Liam Steel has taken L Frank Baum’s classic tale to somewhere beyond a land that we dream of  – this is a must see show for all the family and the wizardry is indeed wonderful.

You can embark on that journey along the Yellow Brick Road into Birmingham until the January 13.

Visit https://www.birmingham-rep.co.uk/whats-on/the-wizard-of-oz.html for times, ticket prices and more information.

Review by Euan Rose

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