The Wizard of Oz, Kings Theatre,
**** 4 Stars
Now in its third year, the Beyond Broadway Experience is back on the grand stage of the Kings Theatre with the ever green “The Wizard of Oz”. Utilizing the Royal Shakespeare Company’s 1987 Script which is adapted faithfully, from the 1939 movie and includes the timeless “Somewhere over the Rainbow” and song that was cut from the Judy Garland classic namely “The Jitterbug”.
Beyond Broadway field a cast of young people that is 157 strong drawn from across Scotland and are tasked with the challenge of staging a musical production to a professional standard in the space of two weeks. Director Drew Gowland succeeds with great aplomb by focusing on the characters and their story, one which has charmed generations of children and enshrewing the glitzy effects and flying so often associated with the show.
Playing the main role of Dorothy Gale is Sarah Kerr (with Eve Hanson as alternate) it’s an earthy performance and she pitches it just right although for the first 15 minutes of act one she rattles through the lines so quickly it does get a little difficult to pick up what she is saying, however once she hits her stride its a true leading lady performance especially with the titular song she truly soars over the rainbow. Matthew Taylor brings a rich vocal and understated acting ability to his role as Zeke / The Cowardly Lion making him endlessly watchable. Matthew Steel’s take on Hunk/ The Scarecrow gives a true glimpse of an actor who is going to go far in the theatre industry, his strong vocal, acting presence and physicality combine to bring to life a scarecrow that transcends the decades since the character was written ensuring the audience truly cares about the little scarecrow it’s a lovely performance indeed. In the role of Hickory / Tin Man is the simply joyful Jamie Duffy, he turns in a finally tuned performance worthy of any professional production. His high Baritone voice lending itself so well to his solo number if i only had a heart. His ability to physically become the tin man is a high light of the production and its clear we are going to be seeing much from in future productions in theatres around the country. Ailsa Maplesden delivers a sweet Glinda The Good Witch as she sparkles against Caitlin Forret’s Wicked Witch, however Forret needs to give her character just a little more push and sell the panto villainy that’s clearly there in the script and embrace giving the kiddies a scare and she will truly soar in the role.
The big moments of the show including the storm that takes Dorothy to Oz are created using the large core de dance under the direction of Choreographers Murray Grant and Louise Ferrier and both should be applauded for the productions highly inventive and capturing style and technique. The same is applied to the dance in the Jitterbug, Poppies and off to see the wizard Scenes. With such a large cast it can be difficult to pick out those with exceptional dance talent. On opening night it was clear Morgan McLauchlin and Conor Miller were both giving everything they had with highly detailed turns as the truly expressed themselves via the dance medium.
Musically, MD Neil Metcalf (assisted by Simon Hanson who MD’d the Munchkin cast) has truly delivered the goods with the cast singing with gusto and passion as well as controlling an 11 strong pit orchestra who deliver the aft sweeping and emotional score with great skill.
What really works for this production is in the aesthetics, there is no real set to speak off instead a large video wall is deployed with a walk way above and more video screens are flown above. Combine the video with a skilled sound and lighting design from MM sound and lighting and the world of OZ comes to life with Ease.
The Wardrobe team should be commended as they have brought a touch of the west end smash “Wicked” into this production, the Tin Man has been given a makeover into a hip hop style and that make over is fleshed out across the production with colour and glitter in full display and could give any west end show a run for its money.
There are a few niggles, the start of the show which is swathed in sepia spends just a little too long behind a gauze but it does pay off when the riot of colour that is Oz is finally revealed.
The hard working team at Beyond Broadway should be so pleased and proud they have truly turned out a Wizard of that is Wickedly Charming with the huge cast loving every moment under those bright lights, so hurry on down the yellow brick road to the box office and grab those tickets.
Beyond Broadway Experience presents: “The Wizard of Oz!” Kings Theatre, Edinburgh, Runs until Saturday 21st July for Tickets go to:- http://www.capitaltheatres.com/wizardofoz