We didn’t follow the yellow brick road – instead we arrived via the Link Road, past Yearsley baths – but we found some treasures over the rainbow nonetheless.
The Wizard Of Oz by We Are Theatre
Joseph Rowntree Theatre
Till Sat June 24
Great songs, much laughter and a heartily cracking night out awaited on our arrival at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre.
The easiest way to describe We Are Theatre’s production of The Wizard Of Oz is to say, if you love the film, you’ll love this show.
This musical is based on the 1939 MGM motion picture that we all know and adore from a thousand Christmas viewings. Dorothy is transported from Kansas to the Land of Oz via a twister and a bump to the head, and her colourful journey home begins.
Energy and charm
It was treat upon treat for the Jo Ro audience. The Munchkins, dotty and adorable, gave us a whole range of emotions, from boundless joy at the death of one wicked witch to untrammelled terror at the appearance of another.
Then, as Dorothy travelled along that yellow road, everyone we met charmed, moved or spooked us. Whether it was singing birds and vengeful trees, pirouetting poppies and swaying snowflakes, enthusiastic Ozians, wily Winkies or unnerving flying monkeys, each played their full part in keeping us absorbed in the fantasy.
A word too about the choreography, overseen by Beth North. From dancing up a storm – literally – and cleverly bring about the transition from Kansas to Oz, to creating an enchanted flower meadow the dancers added greatly to the production.
And a special word for Jennie Allen-Turner as the lead Jitterbug: she was the second tornado of the evening, a striking whirligig of energy and precision. That girl can dance.
At the heart of The Wizard of Oz is a very special quartet. Meg Badrick makes for a kindly Scarecrow, with a physical adroitness used to great comic effect.
We have a lovable and protective Tin Man in John Hawker, and Michael Kimpton gives Bert Lahr a run for his money as the funny, silly and very entertaining cowardly Lion.
Which brings us to the red-slippered one herself. On stage for almost every moment, Indie Star Ramsay-Wilson does a superb job as Dorothy. Always perky, often feisty, stubborn, fearless and unflagging, this is a bravura performance by the youngster.
And we must mention Reggie the shih tzu, who brought a remarkably calm gravitas to the role of Toto, Dorothy’s dog.
Playing opposite them all, Kelly Burley was a cackling, shrieking, green blast of evil as the Wicked Witch.
The songs, this show reminded us, are terrific.
Every one’s a classic – Somewhere Over The Rainbow, Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead, We’re Off to See the Wizard, If I Only Had a Brain / a Heart / the Nerve, The Merry Old Land of Oz – fabulous tunes, brilliantly clever lyrics and performed here with great aplomb, backed by Jess Douglas and her musicians.
Thank you to directors Donna Riley and Charlotte Grey and We Are Theatre for such an happy and cheering night out. There may be some tickets left for Saturday’s last performance. Grab one if you can.