This is the second season for Groove on Down the Road – ZooNation Youth Company’s hip hop interpretation of The Wizard of Oz — at the Southbank. This time, as part of the Centre’s excellent summer Festival of Love, the focus should be on the show’s heart and soul as much as its ability to get our feet stomping. Unfortunately this isn’t quite realised, and for all the energy, colour, noise, cool hip hop moves and precocious talent, L. Frank Baum’s fable seems to have got lost somewhere along the yellow brick road.
There are, however, some marvellous moments from our four misfit friends. Never before have we interpreted the silly Lion’s lack of courage as the equivalent of a powerful bully being deeply scared and insecure at heart. Dylan Mayoral’s fluid dance as a battle between machismo and grace absolutely conveys this surprising dimension.
We also loved the touch of the Tin Man pointing helplessly to the ‘can of compassion’. It provided a chance for the talented Michael Ureta to do some impressive body popping — just one of a dazzling spectrum of dance styles on show. This turn from Ureta was poetically in tune with the show’s emotive heart — something that was lacking elsewhere.
Yes, there are backflips, loads of energy, a funky music score from DJ Walde with Michael Jackson and original Oz music, as well as a dynamic set from Ben Stones — one of the West End’s finest set designers. But we can’t help feeling Groove on Down the Road forgets its heart, and is ultimately more of a basic hip hop display than an original take on a classic story. Artistic director Kate Prince’s punchy formulas have created success after success — but we felt this was a missed chance to break new ground.
Groove on Down the Road is on at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, until 31 August. Tickets £27/£22. It is part of the Southbank Festival of Love, a programme of free and ticketed events. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary review ticket.