Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new production of The Wizard of Oz started its preview run on 7th February at the London Palladium, with the official opening due on 1st March. I anticipate that during the remainder of February there will be some tinkering with the show, particularly in view of its mechanically technical nature. In fact when I attended the show last night it had to pause half-way through the second act due to a technical problem, which thankfully only caused a stop of a minute or two. I was pleased to see that co-producer Bill Kenwright was on hand to speak with the musical director Graham Hurman prior to the commencement of proceedings highlighting that personnel at all levels are keen to make the musical a fantastic success.
From my own perspective I thought that the musical followed fairly closely to the storyline of the 1939 film version starring Judy Garland, and together with the original story being written over 100 years ago by Lyman Frank Baum, it has certainly stood the test of time.
I cannot say that I like the whole process of ‘reality tv’ but if it gives an opportunity to an unknown performer to become a star then so be it, although isn’t that then detracting from all of the other professional actors that have worked for years?
That said, I thought that the performance by Danielle Hope as Dorothy was super and she deserves every success that comes her way. She performed admirably throughout and together with Toto warmed the hearts of the audience.
When watching The Wizard of Oz musical I could not help but initially think of Judy Garland and her portrayal of Dorothy in the film, and I think that it is to Danielle’s credit that she projects the image and personality of Dorothy exceedingly well, and over time for many, her face will be the one recognised for the role.
Edward Baker-Duly (Hickory/Tin Man), David Ganly (Zeke/Lion) and Paul Keating (Hunk/Scarecrow) were all superb. It would be unfair of me to quote from their performances as it might spoil it for others, but fair to say that they add some very good humour to the musical and their acting was first class.
With her natural beauty and elegance, Emily Tierney portrays the part of Glinda wonderfully and the role is perfect for her. In her long-flowing shiny silver dress Emily moves gracefully around the Land of Oz and with a lovely voice to match she will surely endear herself to The Wizard of Oz fans.
Michael Crawford is of course fabulous and his various parts in the musical are performed in the professional manner that we have grown to expect from him. For me personally, having seen him as Frank Spencer many years ago, memories came flooding back when Michael smiled his cheeky smile.
The only ‘criticism’ I would have of Michael, is that when his character of Professor Marvel sings, the ‘Kansas’ accent seemed to conflict with Michael’s natural singing voice. As a leading actor in the musical, he plays his various parts brilliantly with his enthusiasm very much appreciated by an audience that will have seen him in numerous roles.
Hannah Waddingham is outstanding as The Wicked Witch of the West (and Miss Gulch) and her performance throughout really was first class. I am sure that many in the audience will find Hannah their favourite character, although with the makeup required for the Wicked Witch of the West, they will probably find it hard to recognise her out of costume. Well done Hannah, you are brilliant!
The rest of the cast that made up the swing and ensemble all performed professionally. Well done to the choreography team, who have put together a mixture of traditional and modern dance making the scenes both entertaining and fresh.
To conclude the cast, mention must be made of the dogs that played the part of Toto. They all appeared to be very well behaved although I am not sure that some of the recorded growling came from a small dog. The nonchalant expressions made by ‘Toto’ at certain times, were quite amusing and altogether Toto helps the feel-good factor of the musical.
The musical is technically excellent with modern technology being utilised to add to the various scene/set changes, and there are several ‘wow’ moments in the musical that make the audience gasp.
Overall, this is a musical that I am sure will capture the hearts of many, especially as it has a secure and traditional storyline, is adapted with modern technology and is suitable for the whole family. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Bill Kenwright should be congratulated on what will undoubtedly bring them a successful run with The Wizard of Oz.
Content updated 1st May 2014