Wizard of Oz the musical opened at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre in Brisbane, Australia and is a magical experience for the whole family to enjoy.
The musical is a new stage adaptation of the original film that opened at the London Palladium on the West End in 2011, with music and lyrics taken from the classic MGM 1939 film and new songs added from the wondrous talents of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.
This Australian cast stars the legendary, Anthony Warlow. He appears as Professor Marvel at the beginning of the show guiding Dorothy to explore the ‘Wonders of the World’, outside her little Kansas farm with her Aunty Em and Uncle Henry. He also plays the spurious man behind the Emerald City wall, The Wizard! Warlow, the marvel of the stage, embodies the narcissistic and ‘powerful’ Wizard with class and unique style that makes him somewhat likable towards the conclusion of the show.
Glinda the Good Witch of the North is played by the queen and sweetest person in Australian musical theatre, Lucy Durack, who is no stranger to this particular role. Durack played Glinda in the recent tour of Wicked the musical, the story from the witches point of view. The tables have turned for the bubbly but sassy actress. This is perfect for this new take on the well-known role; as it is Dorothy’s side of the majestic story, based on Frank L. Baum’s books. Lucy has limited time on stage this time around; however with the time she has been handed to her, she brings her comedic timing and advice to dear Dorothy that she justly needs. The highlight of the show with Lucy is the finale song ‘Already Home’, the emotion of Dorothy departing and Lucy’s vocals are so beautifully haunting in this moment.
The antagonist of the show, The Wicked Witch of the West is played by the ever so green, Jemma Rix. Similar to Lucy, Jemma is back playing Witch and hasn’t wiped the green off her face just yet. She plays a more evil version of the Wicked Witch unlike the misunderstood Elphaba, this one has less stage time although is very Margaret Hamilton-esque. Rix plays the role in a fierce, sarcastic and twisted way that is delightful for the audience to see.
This is especially showcased in the new song written for this production by THE Andrew Lloyd Webber, ‘Red Shoes Blues’ where she will do anything to Dorothy to get her beloved Ruby Slippers back. This number also brings the witch cackle to a whole new level and is joined by her ‘winkies’ and of course a flying monkey or two. Jemma brings an eccentric new flavour to this show and you can’t forget the way she holds her own at the beginning when she jumps into Miss Gulch’s shoes, threatening to ‘get Dorothy and her little dog too!’
The beaming light of the show I believe is Dorothy and risen star of Australian musical theatre, Samantha Dodemaide. She makes the Wizard of Oz what it is supposed to be. A piece with heart, curiosity and whole lot of magic. Sam begins the show misunderstood and not respected by her Aunty Em (Sophie Weiss) and Uncle Henry (Paul Hanlon), as she sings the beautiful additional song ‘Nobody understands me’ and then blows the audience away with the timeless classic ‘Over the Rainbow’. Her voice is just perfect and flawless for this role. I do appreciate the special trick she does transforming her dress from the checked blue to green during ‘Merry old land of Oz’. She keeps the innocence of Dorothy through the whirlwind of adventures and yet you can sense the maturity she carries with her, assisting the other characters to achieve their dreams. It is wonderful to discover her quirkiness especially in ‘Munchkinland/Ding Dong the Witch is Dead.’
Sam’s interactions with the Scarecrow, Tinman and the Lion are so sweet and can see her empathy and fun she has with each one of the core four. Her optimistic nature and seamless timing throughout the show is beautiful to watch, in particular when she was captured in the Wicked Witch of the West’s tower, as she repeatedly chants ‘I’m not going to cry’. Sam really is perfecting her craft; making a positive name for herself and showing her versatility as Dorothy, as well as illustrating her ability to carry a well-loved classic piece that all know and love.
This was personified as she works and plays with the most popular character, Toto of course! Flick and Trouble are the two dogs who share the role of the beloved Toto. They steal the show according to the audience’s cheers every time they run out on stage or sneeze or scratch or do anything cute in nature. They are wonderfully trained by their coach, Luke.
The incredible friends of Dorothy she meets along the Yellow Brick Road all have their quirks and nuances that make them create magic on stage. The hilarious Eli Cooper plays the wacky Scarecrow in need of a brain. His character is the one that uses his body language the most to communicate this iconic role and Eli gives it all. He lands the comedic timing perfectly. Bravo!
The Tinman comes to life through the brilliant Alex Rathgeber. He provokes the emotional response of the audience when pulling at his non-exist heart. Alex is an electric performer will a fantastic career behind him and that resonates through his robotic movement and powerful voice.
To conclude the core four, John Xintavelonis rounds out the group with his uproarious (pun-intended) portrayal of the cowardly Lion searching for courage. John knows how to work that mane and the animation in his voice is incredible and the way he collaborates with the other members of Dorothy’s ‘tribe’ if you will, is comedy at it’s best. He especially nails the one – liners, for instance ‘the lion sleeps tonight.’
However the entire ensemble, not always on stage, have the most amazing teamwork and precise movement in all they do. The stand – out numbers that they perform are ‘Ding Dong the Witch is Dead’ and which you can view above, ‘Merry Old Land of Oz’. They all stand their ground and are so together and joyous in those particular songs. The Munchkins I applaud for having to change their stance and the way they dance to embody those funny people we have all loved from our childhood. They definitely light up the stage and add that depth and fun to the entire production. Not to mention the costumes in the Emerald City were spectacular and so detailed.
Don’t miss this classic MGM inspired production of The Wizard of Oz to enjoy with all demographics from young, who are just discovering the story to old, who will find it nostalgic and timeless.
The show only has 1 week left at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre in Brisbane until Sunday 3 December and then it goes on tour to Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, snap up your last minute Brisbane seats here!