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The Wizard of Oz

by on 22 December 2019

Whirlwinds and Wizardry

The Wizard of Oz

by Frank L Baum, music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and E Y Young

Dramacube Productions at Hampton Hill Theatre until 23rd December

Review by Claire Alexander

I looked forward to seeing Dramacube’s production of The Wizard of Oz with my six year old nephew. He would indeed be a critical audience having played the Tin Man in a (far, far simpler) performance as part of a holiday club earlier this year. We were not disappointed.

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We all know the story. Young Dorothy, bored with life in rural Kansas, where she only has her beloved dog Toto for company and a number of very busy older siblings, is transported beyond the cyclone and the mysterious Land of Oz. There, on her quest to find the Wizard of Oz (only he has the power to get her home), she meets the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the cowardly Lion. They are all looking for something to make their life complete. And so starts their journey through Munchkinland, to the Emerald City. Dorothy has to overcome the Wicked Witch of the West and rescue her broomstick, before the Wizard will grant their wishes. And in a final twist the balloon that will take her home blows away before she has a chance to catch it! This was presented as the traditional musical it is, complete with all of the well-known numbers – Over the Rainbow and We’re off to See the Wizard to name a couple.

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This was an assured production from Dramacube, given all of their performers are under fourteen and some could be as young as seven. It was well presented and I liked the gauze curtain against which were projected images of life in Kansas, before it was raised to give us a more open stage depicting Oz. I particularly liked the animated horse, and the untethered balloon at the end. And then, once in Oz we had the eponymous yellow brick road stretching into the distance and the Emerald City, and this gave us a nice sense of perspective. The Hampton Hill Theatre can be a deep and a big stage when there is an open set and this cast of 21 young performers (all playing multiple roles) filled it impressively well. There was also a raised platform which was used to good effect by the wicked witch, and the crows, which also helped to give us a sense of power and height. I had the sense that the young cast had all been involved to some extent in the creation of the set and I certainly imagined the bright land of Oz ‘over the rainbow’.

There were some other nice touches. I liked the way Toto was played by a cuddly toy when we were in Kansas and turned into a shaggy scampering dog when we got to Oz – well maintained by Joshua Briggs. The chorus choreography (K’ja Young Thomas and Danielle Bond) was relatively simple but everyone knew what they were doing, and there were some good dancers among the Jitterbugs.

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The performances (I saw the Twickenham Blue cast) matched the brightness of the set and costumes with their energy and enthusiasm. It is unfair to pick out a few names when everyone had multiple roles and really contributed to the whole. But I was particularly impressed with Anya Malinowska (as Dorothy 1) singing Over the Rainbow – this was a really striking performance, no obvious nerves, of the song that is always associated with Dorothy and right at the beginning of the show too. Well done. Almost unnoticed Dorothy 1 swapped into Dorothy 2 in the form of Daisy Allen. She has already developed a confident presence on stage and she ably led her growing team of characters in her quest to find the Wizard. And finally Sophie Collins was a truthful and natural Dorothy 3 just as Dorothy’s journey was ending. I also wanted to mention Joseph Kirwan who was a wonderfully natural scarecrow! He delivered his lines with a great ‘dead pan cool’ and there is an emerging comic talent there. My nephew pricked up his ears and enjoyed the Tin Man (Jake McGowan) who wanted a heart, and mouthed the lines ‘oil, oil’ with him. And the three were ably joined by Eva Scargill as the Lion in search of courage who had a gentle timid presence. Another performance that stood out for me was Larissa Shaffrick as eccentric Professor Marvel.

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But this was truly an ensemble production. You have to be organised to play several parts with costume changes in the space of an hour and there was no sense of uncertainty on stage. Some of the performers are still very inexperienced but energy, enthusiasm and commitment shone from everyone and there is a wealth of talent among these young performers.

The only thing I missed was a reprise at the end of one of the well-known numbers by all of the cast – that would have been a worthy and fitting end to the show.

Dramacube has four casts of this show and they have all been rehearsing throughout the autumn term. I saw the ‘Twickenham Blue’ cast but I have no doubt I would have found just as much enchantment and talent in any of the other casts. Stephen Leslie and Matthew Bunn and all the adults assisting are doing some great work to nurture and encourage young performers and I am sure we will see them again as they get older and graduate to local youth theatres, secondary schools and adult groups.

Claire Alexander
December 2019

Photography by Bomi Cooper

 

 

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