Writer: L Frank Baum
Director: Andy Johnston
Reviewer: Dominic Corr
We’re all at least partially familiar with MGM’s 1939 adaptation of classic fantasy book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Young farm girl Dorothy Gale (Anna Chidgey) finds herself swept away from Kansas and into the mesmerising world of Oz. Here she encounters a host of unique creatures; some friend and some foe, with a wealth of musical numbers woven into the story.
Opening nights are known to have problems, and Southern Light’s production of The Wizard of Oz has more than its fair share, from awkward lighting and line delivery to issues with fly rigging and flat transitions. Gavin Scott’s direction of the video segments suffers too; the show’s creative team tap into a novel idea but it just isn’t precise enough. Using a drop-down gauze and projector screens intensifies both the Wicked Witch’s use of her crystal ball and the Wizard’s looming dome, however, the projections fail to line up precisely and strip away the atmosphere.
Howeverthere are glimmers of light, three in fact: Gary Gray, Tanya Williamson, and Elspeth Whyte as the Cowardly Lion, Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the West. Vocally both Williamson and Gray are exquisite; Gray’s rendition of If I Were King Of The Forest being a highlight, his ability to convey such facial expression beneath the lions’ costume and make-up is commendable.Whyte portrays the infamous Wicked Witch with uncanny precision, especially the cackle;she also manages to add something new to the character -a healthy dose of much-needed sarcasm.
There’s a difference between ambition and folly, and while Southern Light’s production has heart and heaps of courage, it isn’t the whole package – too many errors and a disappointing series of technical failures spoil an otherwise gratifying show with a talented cast.
Runs until 27 February 2016 | Image: Tracey Largue