Andrew Lloyd Webber’s production of The Wizard of Oz, directed by Jeremy Sams, delivers everything one might expect from such a show, and perhaps just a little bit more.
It reveals a high level of slickness and a remarkable attention to detail. Courtesy of John Driscoll’s projection designs the audience feel as if they are tumbling through the hurricane with Dorothy, while Robert Jones’s Art Deco Emerald City is a wonder to behold. In contrast, other sets have a pleasing simplicity with much of Act One working around a circular Yellow Brick Road, the other props rising within and about it.
Compared with the film, more is made of the fact that Dorothy is an orphan, and that the inhabitants of the Emerald City are ostentatious, callous and negligent. Conversely, the newly introduced joke that the Scarecrow keeps forgetting he wants a brain is wearing, while some of the most popular numbers are reprised just a little too often.
None of the new songs written by Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice quite live up to Harold Arlen and E Y Harburg’s originals, but Professor Marvel’s Wonders of the World is entertaining enough. Similarly, Hannah Waddingham, by virtue of the strongest performance of the evening, transforms the Wicked Witch of the West’s Red Shoes Blues into something of a hit.
Danielle Hope, the winner of Over the Rainbow, is a commendable Dorothy. Her stage presence works well with the fantasy setting of Oz, which demands highly charged mannerisms and gestures. Emily Tierney is delightful as the glitzy, ditzy Glinda, quite different from the Good Witch of the North in the film, while Michael Crawford is a pleasing Wizard. Unfortunately, however, Paul Keating, Edward Baker-Duly and David Ganly are only passable as the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion, and the three successive scenes in which they meet Dorothy fall rather flat.
But this Wizard of Oz remains a thoroughly enjoyable show. How much one warms to it may depend on how much they are already in love with the film, but, if only on a superficial level, it should move the vast majority of fans.
Booking until 17 September 2011. Tickets: 0844 412 2957 or from the Wizard of Oz website.
Photo: The Scarecrow (Paul Keating), Lion (David Ganly), Tin Man (Edward Baker-Duly), Dorothy (Danielle Hope) and Wizard of Oz (Michael Crawford), (c) Keith Pattison.