The Wizard of Oz

19/07/18

King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

It’s a perennial favourite of amateur youth theatre groups the world over. Originally a book by Frank L. Baum, published in 1900, The Wizard of Oz  is of course best known through the 1939 MGM film version starring Judy Garland. This version sticks fairly closely to the movie (although it does reinstate a routine, The Jitterbug, filmed but cut from the original cinematic release). Beyond Broadway’s delightful production is all done with such zeal and vivacity that it makes me wish that there was another word I could use rather than ‘amateur,’ because the standard displayed here rivals many professional shows I’ve seen.

I needn’t bother you with a plot summary – let’s face it, unless you’ve lived in a hole in the ground all your life, the events of the story must be pretty much stamped into your consciousness. Suffice to say that Sarah Kerr is a winsome Dorothy, and Matthew Steel a bumbling delight as the Scarecrow. Jamie Duffy and Matthew Taylor impress as the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion respectively, while special praise should be reserved for Taylor Williams, channeling his inner Matthew McConaughey as the wonderful wizard himself. Oh yes, and I should perhaps mention that in this show, Toto is performed by an actual canine, one so cute, he (or she) has the audience giving a collective ‘awww’ at every appearance.

But this is more a dance extravaganza than anything else, and you have to hand it to the choreographers, who somehow manage to fill the stage of the King’s Theatre with huge numbers of brightly costumed youngsters, who leap and whirl and occasionally even perform somersaults, a real triumph of timing, precision and imaginative interpretation. Anybody who has the slightest involvement in musical theatre will appreciate what a mammoth undertaking this is and how faultless the end product. The depiction of the transformative tornado, created by scores of moving dancers brandishing pieces of material is inspired – and I love the use of younger members of the cast as the Munchkins, skipping repeatedly across a gantry above the stage, holding chunks of a very famous brightly coloured highway in their hands. I have no doubt that in the ranks of this exuberant cast must lurk some major theatrical stars of the future.

So, if you fancy a couple of hours immersion in the wonderful world of Oz, make your way to the King’s Theatre, where this delightful show runs until Saturday.

And how to get there? Just follow the yellow brick road!

4 stars

Philip Caveney 

 

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