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Wizard of Oz Jr.

by on 20 December 2022

Wistful Yearning in Kansas

Wizard of Oz Jr.

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

Dramacube, Hampton Hill Yellow Cast at Hampton Hill Theatre until 19th December

Review by Heather Moulson

I vividly recalled this complex, nightmarish tale and the strong moral it carried when I saw the Wizard of Oz at my local fleapit, being a similar age to the Dramacube cast. Unforgettable is putting it mildly.  Also very ambitious, and I was curious to see how the highly reputable Dramacube would interpret such an iconic piece.  With their former high standard, I had every confidence in them. 

Dorothy, played by Farrah McCann, was enticing as she sang the wonderful song Over The Rainbow with wistful conviction.  Toto, sweet and loyal and played sincerely by Georgia Lane, could have been slightly more animated.  Then perhaps that role wouldn’t have been so hard on the knees.  However, the barking was well done and the occasional bites were heartily cheered.  I also felt Dorothy’s costume could have been better, and not the simple school dress she wore, especially compared to the bolder costumes of the cast.  However Farrah has a beautiful voice, and we’ll look out for her in the future.

Before I go on, I really want to mention the backdrops for Dorothy’s native Kansas and how effective they were.  Especially in black and white, it created a great atmosphere and complemented the isolation of Aunt Em’s farm.  Aunt Em was played by Meghan Staton, and she and Ayush Jethwa as Uncle Henry were strong as the simple and homely farm labouring couple.  Miss Gulch was menacing and Emme Brownson played her as a real villain.  I’d also like to give a nod to the colourful entry to the Land of Oz; the paper flowers and toadstools really stood out. The use of the stage was thorough and well designed.  The effects of the Wizard of Oz and interior of the Wicked Witch’s castle also stood out.

Professor Marvel played by Franklyn Macdonald was a strong catalyst with a tender heart under his magic allure.  We adored the Wicked Witch and her clipped tones, so well done to Hannah Kuhnel.  Although Glinda was sweet and powerful, and played beautifully by Yasmin Bartholomew, there could have been more eye contact with Dorothy and the surrounding cast, particularly the Munchkins.

I’m loathe to say the munchkins felt under-rehearsed for such a vital turn in the story, but that did not stop their colourful impact, humour and general gusto, making it a marvellously colourfully choreographed scene with “Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead”.

The rather glamorous Scarecrow played by Henry Massie, the highly watchable Tin Man by Teddy Button, and Molly Bates’ endearing cowardly Lion were poignant and lovable characters who wistfully yearned respectively for a brain, heart and courage.  These wishes were interacted as they went on to “Follow the Yellow Brick”, forging their bond with Dorothy and Toto.  We were with them on their journey to happiness and fulfilment, knowing this would come true in a colourful climax.

Jitterbugs, tough kids, monkeys, tots and guards all did a splendid job of doubling up and playing with humour and menace.  A special nod to the effective Apple Trees, a very versatile cast.

Thus Wizard of Oz was directed in great detail by Matthew Bunn, heroically taking on a Red and Blue cast too, whose ambitious work came up trumps.  Skilled musical direction by Rory Cubin and Heather Stockwell excelled, and a big nod to Hannah Calarco, the production designer.  They formed an effective creative team that presented a strong production of fifty enjoyable minutes with great talent on full display.

Heather Moulson, December 2022

Photography by Simone Sutton

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