REVIEW: THE WIZARD OF OZ (Blackpool Winter Gardens) ★★★★

Based on the Royal Shakespeare Company‘s 1987 musical, The Wizard Of Oz has landed in Blackpool this Christmas after a run last year at the Sheffield Crucible Theatre.

The show follows the original film’s story of the little girl, Dorothy and her dog Toto who get swept up in a cyclone and end up in the weird and wonderful land of Oz. The only way Dorothy can find her way home is to make the journey to see The Wizard and ask for his help. Along the way she meets a Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion who join her on the trip, seeking help from the Wizard themselves. But things aren’t that simple and the Wicked Witch of the West sets out to kill Dorothy in order to claim the power within her ruby red slippers. Spoiler alert; they kill the witch and Dorothy makes it home, having the epiphany along the way that home is where the heart is and they were always with her.

The Wizard of Oz is a classic tale and always a joy to see on stage. However, since the 2011 adaption by Andrew Lloyd Webber came around, I do miss hearing some of the newer Lloyd Webber songs like ‘Already Home’, ‘Red Shoe Blues’ and ‘Nobody Understands Me’ as they add depth to the characters and really help tell the story.

The acting can’t be faulted in this production. X Factor’s Holly Tandy is a fine Dorothy and Sarah Tullamore is a perfect wicked witch (although at times she appeared green and at others not which was a little confusing). It was a nice touch to see the Wizard portrayed by a woman and Kate Milner-Evans did a good job with the part. Having previously played Glinda in Wicked, Charlotte Scott returns to the role to portray the other side of the character in The Wizard of Oz and she is perfect for the role in both shows.

Emmerdale’s Kelvin Fletcher, Scott Gallagher and Kieran McGinn were all great as the Tin Man, Lion and Scarecrow with the Lion winning my heart above the others. The children used as the munchkins were adorable and all strong performers but the boy playing the Mayor shone above them all and I am sure we will see more of him on stage in the future. I would have liked to see Toto the dog run on and off of the stage instead of being passed around and collected from the side of the stage but the addition of a live animal is always lovely to see.

There were some great choices made by director Cressida Carre, including using the children to portray poppies in the field and three sassy women as the apple trees.

The Wizard of Oz is always going to be a family favourite and at this time of year it is refreshing to see something for families that isn’t a pantomime. This production is a lot of fun and even with a few technical difficulties, is well worth the trip if you are in the North of England.

Reviewed by West End Wilma
Photo: Mark Dawson


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