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The wizard is back - though possibly not wonderful
The Wizard of Oz - The Musical
Member Name: morellomole
The Wizard of Oz - The Musical
Date: 16/02/11, updated on 07/03/11 (79 review reads)
Advantages: Ambitious production with much to absorb.
Disadvantages: Average performances.
After all the television selection procedure for the new Dorothy, there was a fair amount of anticipation around this new production. In many ways, this was justified as this is certainly a striking show.
With a classic tale such as this I am not sure I need to give a plot summary, but I shall do so briefly. Dorothy and her dog, Toto, get caught up in a tornado and end up in a land called Oz squashing a wicked witch in the process. Dorothy then travels to see a great Wizard in order to find a way home. Along the way she makes a few friends, gets in a few scrapes, and sings a few songs.
All the old favourite numbers are still intact, and performed reasonably competently. There are also a couple of new Lloyd Webber songs in place which although not instantly memorable, certainly have some style to them
The set is quite an affair to behold. As well as the revolving yellow brick road, there are segments of houses, castles, fields etc. all waiting to be unfurled from the complicated stage mechanism. At times this works really well and seems almost effortless. At other times, you can actually hear machinery cranking, and people moving around making the magic come together - which can be quite distracting. Similarly, there is a screen which drops down on which images are shown to help tell the story. Sometimes, this gives the whole stage an extra dimension, making the show more an audio-visual spectacular than a West End musical. At other times you can almost feel the imagery being dragged out beyond its natural impact requirement, just to buy time for the afore-mentioned scenery to be dragged into place.
As far as the performances are concerned, most of the supporting roles are pretty well filled (Hannah Waddingham as the witch was stylishly melodramatic - almost sexy which was an interesting twist). Michael Crawford still has enough presence to keep the audience entertained, even if the vocal performance was not as powerful as he once was. Danielle Hope I found slightly disappointing, as the accent slipped here and there, and she didn't really have enough charisma to make you care for her. Add to that a tap routine or two which was passable if not outstanding, and you have most of the makings of an adequate show.
To be fair, I saw the show on the second night of a preview run, meaning that the final show that is in place by official opening night, may be a much more polished affair. I will find out as I have tickets for public opening night, and I will be taking my children this time. The night I went there was a high percentage of children present who seemed to be enjoying the show. There is certainly enough going on to keep them entertained. As well as the songs, intricate staging, dancing, image screen, pyrotechnics, sound effects and witches on wires all over the theatre, there was a lot of clapping along to old favourites. I should imagine they could get quite involved as some of the show is quite frightening - blasts of fire and the Wizard's room being great examples of this.
Overall, I was entertained enough not to regret going, but not as gratified as I was hoping to be. This is possibly summed up best by the fact that the biggest cheer by far at the end of the show was for the dog - who for me stole the show along with the crows (pointless for me to tell you anything the dog did as I suspect if it has a mind to, it will give a thoroughly different performance every night).
A short note on the theatre itself. To view this production in the upper circle, you would miss a few parts of the action and the top of the set,while seeing more of the mechanics of the set than you may like. To view this from the stalls would give a good view overall. In my opinion, the dress circle is probably the best place of all to watch this though.
Update 7/3/11 - I went to see the finalised production on opening night last week. Although a slightly smoother affair, my opinions of the show are much the same. A few changes had been made to the show, but nothing significant. Michael Crawford was better - I think he has been suffering from laryngitis recently - meaning at least one human star of the show (the dog still gets the biggest cheers). My kids seemed to love it, so I am happy I took them, and they didn't seem to get bored. What I did notice even more this time, was the lack of inspired dance routines, however. I have also spoken to people about the view from the stalls. It would seem that if you are in the front few rows, you are unlikely to see anything at all.
Summary: Worth a watch, but not the best show in town.
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