Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Wizard of Oz - Theatre Royal, Brighton

The Wizard of Oz by L F Baum
Adaptor: John Kane
Music & Lyrics: Harold Arlen & EY Harbug
Director/Choreographer: Tim Flavin
Reviewer: John Roberts

First Family Entertainment prides itself on and I quote 'promoting the traditional values of pantomime' and it is here that they should have stayed and not ventured into musicals. Musicals by their very nature are a glossy affair and require high production values and its a shame that this just doesn't carry into this first musical production by the company at the Theatre Royal in Brighton.

The Wizard of Oz is a literary and movie classic and should be treated with, in my personal opinion the utmost of respect. This is a musical that has brought joy to millions of people of all generations through the decades, but this production which is directed by Tim Flavin (who also choreographs the production and plays the Scarecrow) has far too many elements that remind me of pantomime than a classic musical. Julia J Nagle's Glinda is a grimacing affair to watch, tripping all over the stage playing a typical 'blonde' does not do justice to the power and gracefulness that this role requires.

The set of this production looked cheap from the start, with tacky glitter lined tabs and creased back cloths, unfortunately the set just didn't get any better, Oz looked more like the result of a four hour art project from a Blue Peter programme consisting of cardboard tubes painted green and some nasty gold gilding, than the glitzy Emerald City that we have come to love and expect from such a stage classic.

But all is not lost in this production, a fantastic and show stealing performance by Gareth Marks as the Cowardly Lion brings a slightly more camp rendition of the Lion than I have ever seen, and although with hesitations at the start won this reviewer over after his first scene. Aimie Atkinson provides a suitable Dorothy and her singing voice is simply sublime, pity the accent didn't follow suit. Credit must also be given to a scene stealing Munchkin (Annie Edwards) who like her part in 'Into the Hoods' in London's West End was very well received by all, a bright young star and one to watch out for in the future.

All in all, the children who were at the theatre enjoyed this production but I was expecting something quite spectacular after seeing several excellent pantomimes by this company. Unfortunately though it takes a Director that has the courage of a Lion to try something new and bold to make this a production that stands out from the crowd, and like the Tin Man throughout the story, it just doesn't have the heart one would hope and wish for.
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