Writer: Simon Foster
Director: Chantelle Nolan
Reviewer: John Roberts
Theatre Royal St Helens and Regal Entertainment have an undeniable reputation of producing pantomimes of the highest standard, in fact they were one of the first venues in the country to produce an Easter pantomime, this year the present a new version of The Wizard of Ozand it’s just as spellbinding as the iconic musical of the same name.
Regulars at the venue, may be disappointed to find that the usual culprits of Simon Foster and Lewis Devine are notoriously missing from the cast, that’s because they are down the road in Stockport with Regal’s sister pantomime Beauty and the Beast, but patrons need not be disappointed for the cast of The Wizard of Oz are like a breath of fresh air to the theatre.
As the lead heroine, Mia Malloy delights as Dorothy with a beautiful singing voice and great stage presence and she is accompanied by strong performances from Jay Lusted as The Wizard of Oz, Lucy Kane as Glinda and Harry Moore as the Tin Man. However, for this reviewer, there are a trio of performances which really steal the show. Steve Arnott gives us a wonderfully rounded and cute Cowardly Lion, Headliner Linda Lusardi looks extremely glamorous at the Wicked Witch, not only relishing every opportunity to encourage the audience to hiss and boo but joining in all the fun, something with which a lot of “star names” fail to really engage with. But it is Reece Sibbald as the Scarecrow which really ignites the stage. His energy is full and his jokes on target, here we have a true pantomime comic, everything comes so naturally and easy, and never fails to have the audience in hysterics. I just hope that we see more of this Geordie joker in coming shows at St Helens.
Despite this being a pantomime, one thing that is really noticeable is how true to the original musical the production stays, this is all the fun of the pantomime and all the truth of the musical, this is a heartfelt tribute to that which went before. That’s not to say writer Simon Foster hasn’t stamped his trademark “yooohooo” into the script, it’s there for all the regulars to take note that the performer is still inside the building in spirit if not in person.
The production is full of bright costumes and glitzy scenery and sets the scene perfectly for a fun-filled adventure down the yellow brick road. As Easter treats go, this is more filling and more enjoyable than a truckload of chocolate eggs.
Runs until 22 April 2019 | Image: David Munn Photography