East AngliaMusicalReview

The Wizard of Oz – Theatre Royal, Norwich

Reviewer: Lu Greer

Writer: L. Frank Baum
Music: Harold Arlen
Lyrics: E.Y. Harburg
Additional Music and Lyrics: Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice
Adaptors: Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jeremy Sams
Director: Nikolai Foster

Fresh from a London Palladium run, The Wizard of Oz UK tour lands in Norwich. The story, of course, is one we all know of a young Dorothy who finds herself a long way from Kansas, with a dead witch’s shoes on her feet, and only a Lion, a Scarecrow, and a Tin Man to help her (oh my!). This version, adapted by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jeremy Sams does for the most part stick to the original, but finds space to build on the 1900’s classic.

The cast is headed up by a Dorothy Gale performed by Aviva Tulley who follows very much in the footsteps of Judy Garland’s 1930s quintessential performance. Her character is every part the sweet natured and innocent girl we all expect, and her performance of Somewhere Over the Rainbow is note perfect. The trio of Benjamin Yates (Scarecrow), Marley Fenton (Tin Man), and Nic Greenshields (Lion) play off each other well, and each bring their own interpretation to their characters and find spots to show off their comedic timing.

The Vivienne is, of course, nothing short of iconic when she steps onto the stage as the Wicked Witch of the West, managing to meander across the line from camp to downright evil at a moments notice. Her rendition of one of the new show numbers Red Shoe Blues sets the song up to be a classic in its own right and brings down the house.

The standout performance, however, comes from an unexpected place. Abigail Matthew’s puppeteering of Toto the dog is captivating to watch; and especially so when the dog is not the centre of a scene, where he can still be seen wagging his tale, and watching what is going on around him.

In a story synonymous with the rainbow, it is a shame that the set is a bare stage heavily reliant on a screen. There are some set pieces mixed in, but the large open space at times creates an amateur-production-like feel. The use of the screen does nothing to help this with the likes of the farm, and a Vegas style Oz appearing large in the background against a spare stage, adding the sense of emptiness.

While this show is performed by a very capable cast, the script of this incarnation of the Wizard of Oz doesn’t give them all that much to work with. The show adds in new songs but they don’t really fit with the original score, they give Glinda a phone but still keep the 30s dialogue; it seems that there are almost two competing productions taking place on the stage and neither quite wins.

Runs Until: 3 March 2024

The Reviews Hub Score

Somewhere near the rainbow

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The Reviews Hub - South East

The South East team is under the editorship of Nicole Craft. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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