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REVIEW: The Wizard of Oz, Leeds Playhouse

“Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!”

We all know that famous quote (if you don’t, then you need a SERIOUS movie education). It strikes in us the memory of watching ‘The Wizard of Oz’ as children, singing along to ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ with Judy Garland and running to hide behind the sofa whenever the Wicked Witch of the West turned up. Just me?

But as I’ve grown up, I associated the classic old movie with being, well… just old. I’m never in a rush to watch the film again and I certainly don’t think of it when I think of what are some of the best musicals ever written. But actually, I may need to reassess that after seeing The Wizard of Oz at Leeds Playhouse recently.

Opening Night of The Wizard of Oz at Leeds Playhouse

I attended Opening Night of The Wizard of Oz in the newly refurbished Leeds Playhouse back in November as an arranged school trip with ACTAcademy UK (the stage school I teach at in Harrogate). I very may well have enjoyed it the most out of everybody… I forgot what a fantastic show it is!

Every song and scene is totally nostalgic and the show is a perfect homage to the original movie. At a 2 hours and 50 minutes running time it seems long, but there is so much happening that you don’t really feel it. The songs are fantastic, the set is beautiful and the talent onstage is inspiring.

Let’s begin with the 14-year-old girl, Lucy Sherman, who played Dorothy. She carried the show with a maturity far beyond her young years. According to her CV she has had plenty of experience in professional productions but her talent for such a young age is mesmerising. This is a girl who is going to go far!

The role is shared between two young girls, the other of which is 12-year-old Agatha Meehan. While I haven’t seen her, I’m sure that Agatha is just as fantastic as Lucy.

This production of The Wizard of Oz certainly didn’t leave it feeling ambiguous as to whether Dorothy had really journeyed to Oz or whether it had all been a dream… it was definitely a dream in this production’s case. The small cast of main actors pull off multi-rolling with aplomb and I loved spotting the actors from the beginning in Kansas pop up again as the magical characters in the land of Oz.

All three of the actors playing the famous Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion were fantastic. Eleanor Sutton as the Scarecrow was a delight every time she was onstage and I particularly enjoyed her rendition of (my favourite song) ‘If I only had a brain’. Sam Harrison as the Tinman executed a wonderful dance break in the middle of ‘If I only had a heart’. He may have dropped his axe half way through but I didn’t mind since he was such a fabulous dancer.

And Marcus Eyton as the Lion was perfectly hilarious as the loveable lion. His microphone became muffled during Act 2 which disappointingly spoilt his solo, ‘Courage’, however I’m sure that has been rectified since the Opening Night.

In general, the technical elements of this production were pretty shaky all the way through from microphones, to set changes, to seeing the tech team at the sides of the stage in plain sight, but it’s to be expected for the start of a run. I’m sure it is all smoothed out by this point in the run.

Other notable mention must go to Aisla Dallin, the brilliant puppeteer who controls Toto through the land of Oz, and Polly Lister as the Wicked Witch of the West. Her portrayal of the cruel witch was terrifying and hilarious at the same time – especially when she spoke in her own form of sign language to the Winged Monkeys. Comedic brilliance!

I wondered how relevant The Wizard of Oz was for being the featured show over the festive period at Leeds Playhouse, however after seeing the production I was reminded exactly why. It is a show about appreciating the love and support that you have around you and how if you stick together you can overcome any bad times that come your way. Even if they come in the form of a wicked, cackling witch (or nasty neighbour trying to steal your dog)…

The Wizard of Oz at Leeds Playhouse runs until the 25th January 2020 so grab your tickets for the remainder of the run now. This is a fantastic show that both families and older theatre-goers alike will enjoy. Get your tickets on the Leeds Playhouse website now.

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