Musicals

 

 

 

 

 

THE IMPOSTERS

 

A review by Mary Couzens for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

Bill Kenwright and The Really Useful Group present

 

Andrew Lloyd Webber's new production of

 

                        
 THE WIZARD OF OZ

 

The-Wizard's-Chamber-(Scarecrow-(Paul-Keating),-Lion-(David-Ganly),-Tin-Man-(Edward-Baker-Duly),-Dorothy-(Danielle Hope), The Wizard (Michael Crawford)
Photo by Keith Pattison

 

With Michael Crawford as The Wizard

and

Danielle Hope as Dorothy

 

Music Harold Arlen

Lyrics E. Y. Harburg

Adapted by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jeremy Sams

Orchestrations David Cullen

Musical Director Graham Hurman

Projection Designer Jon Driscoll

Lighting Designer Hugh Vanstone

Sound Designer Mick Potter

Choreographer Arlene Phillips

Set and Costume Designer Robert Jones

Director Jeremy Sams

From the book by L. Frank Baum

Based upon the Classic Motion Picture owned by Turner Entertainment

And produced with the permission of Warner Brothers, Theatre Ventures and EMI Music Publishing

 

London Palladium


Now Booking

 

 

This musical was a Technicolor dream when it was released as an instantly classic film in 1939, and here, Andrew Lloyd Webber seeks to re-create the look and atmosphere of Dorothy’s epic journey from Kansas to Oz and back. All of the beloved songs from the 1939 MGM movie – ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow,’ ‘We’re Off to See the Wizard,’ ‘Follow the Yellow Brick Road,’ ‘If I Only Had a Brain’ (Heart, the Nerve) and others are here to delight, along with three brand new Lloyd Webber numbers strategically placed to fill out the show’s vividly filmic scenes and musically pad the roles of the show’s most seasoned stars – Michael Crawford of Phantom of the Opera fame as the Wizard of Oz/Professor Marvel and musical star Hannah Waddington as Miss Gulch/ Witch of the West.  

Creating contrast between the drabness of Kansas and rainbows of Oz, the show’s humble beginning catches up to Dorothy (Over the Rainbow winner Danielle Hope), with her scene-stealing dog Toto, as she tells Auntie Em (Helen Walsh) and Uncle Henry (Stephen Scott) about witchy Miss Gulch’s (Hannah Waddington) plan to take him away, because he’s had the sense to bite her. The farm’s ailing machinery, continually reworked by its three farmhands – Hunk (Paul Keating), Hickory (Edward Baker-Duly) and Zeke (David Ganly) sets us squarely in make do and mend, Depression era America. To save Toto, Dorothy runs away, but doesn’t get far before she meets Prof. Marvel (Michael Crawford) with his wooden cart displaying slideshows of the wonders of the world. A cracking thunder storm heralds a twister, and Dorothy hurries home, too late to hide in the underground shelter. In her bedroom, she hits her head when the house lurches, falling deep into a dream which draws her, Toto and the house itself right into the heart of the wildly swirling cyclone.

From the atmosphere of excitement Robert Jones’ amazing sets, together with Jon Driscoll’s evocative, sometimes OTT projection designs evoke, they may both entertain dreams of awards. Either way, between the television hype, big names and stunning staging of this show, I doubt whether any other musical to emerge this year will generate as much interest among the theatre-going public, given its widely anticipated hybrid of tried and true and brand new. Who better to take on such a challenge than the legendary team of Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice, who co-conjured musical hits The Phantom of the Opera, Starlight Express, Cats and many other longrunning shows? It’s enough to convert the most strident musical phobic to take the Technicolor plunge. The musical’s gloriously sweeping overture alone, with its myriad of moods, drawn straight from the Hollywood of yore is enough to generate chills down the spines of any film or music lover. Musical Director Graham Hurman openly relishes conducting the show’s celebrated score.

“Nobody Understands Me”, specially composed for this production by the dynamic duo of Lloyd Webber and Rice, gives Danielle Hope, the young actress who has, metaphorically, already gone over the rainbow by beating 9,000 other hopefuls, a chance to demonstrate her musical potential. Eighteen year old Ms. Hope with her youthful Ginger Rogers looks, spunky can do attitude and impressive vocal range seems a suitable Dorothy. Although this is her professional debut, she seems at ease in the company of esteemed actor/ singer Michael Crawford. Crawford’s professionalism, sense of comic timing and distinctive singing voice serve him well in this role and his performances (even as Doorman of Oz/Tour Guide) are enjoyable, however brief or intermittent his appearances.

Out of the three friends Dorothy makes in Oz, she’s partial to Scarecrow. In this case, he is played by an actor whose performances I’ve reviewed favourably before, Paul Keating, (Tick, Tick, Boom, Little Shop of Horrors).  Keating’s wobbly, lope-legged dancing and cheery singing lend touches of charm. In contrast, Edward Baker-Duly’s Tin Man seems mechanical, displaying US Marine mannerisms which jar, but may not have, had they been more influenced by Toy Story than the US military.  Perhaps that’s simply an English take on Tin Man, drawing on today’s US block-buster macho men. Regardless, it’s a far cry from his predecessor Jack Haley’s lovable Tin Man, as, it has to be said, are all three of Dorothy's friends. But such things are directorial and/or adaptive decisions, like the petty bickering between Lion and Tin Man that occurs when Dorothy admits she likes Scarecrow best, which was, thankfully, absent from the film. Likewise, though David Ganly’s performance as Lion is generally effective, moments in which he makes glib references to contemporary culture steer the show more toward panto than its’ inspirational source. Possibly, such detours were made for fear of losing the audience’s attention, a phenomena which would not be an issue if the film’s original storyline, with humanity and good natured humour intact were followed.

Other strays towards today occur in the costuming of good witch Glinda (Emily Tierney) and Witch of the West (Hannah Waddington) with Tierney sporting a glittering blue gown, more suggestive of midnight than the soft pink of dawn, as aging Billy Burke, nonetheless, shone in, in '39 and Ms. Waddington's bad witch, who, in her " Red Shoes Blues" scene dances before us, surrounded by seemingly, adoring henchmen in a lacy black boudoir outfit, more akin to Diana Dors than a wicked witch. On a less glamorous note, the hip-padded, bath-mat look suit and unrealistic makeup on David Ganly as Lion threatens to drags the tone of the whole show down every time he appears.

Costumes aside, Waddington plays to the audience directly on some occasions, (like it or not), seemingly taking us into her confidence with an air of tongue in cheek treachery, belting out songs with gusto, at one point, poised high above the audience, like a sparkling spider, spreading kitsch ghoulishness into the audience. Helen Walsh and Stephen Scott play Dorothy’s guardians, Auntie Em and Uncle Henry with a simplicity and earnestness demonstrating why their orphan ward loves them so. Both performers are also part of the ensemble as well as playing several small but pivotal roles.

Despite the extravagant effects of this show, some of the film’s most memorable scenes are reined in like wayward steer. The most glaring example of this is Dorothy’s encounter with the Muchkins, which, though originally made up of a combination of the entire midget acting population of Hollywood, (who, as today had precious few opportunities to utilise their talents) and child actors, dressed in multi-coloured Dr. Seuss worthy clothing, here consists of a group of normal sized adults condescendingly bending over (why?) and children, dressed in nearly identical blue and white costumes (and hair) so drab they dull the scene. Kansas folk were more intriguing. Though, it’s true there is no shortage of colourful tall plastic flowers and the yellow brick road here, moves along with Dorothy, flashing in a manner reminiscent of Saturday Night Fever’s dance-floor. Frequent scene changes are accomplished smoothly, but nevertheless, command one’s attention, with the road shifting down at one point, only to rise again, laden with large poppies not unlike those worn for Remembrance Sunday.

Sadly, the show’s most intriguing scenes– Dorothy’s turbulent trip to Oz, her arrival in Emerald City, audiences in the Wizard’s chamber and the walk through the haunted forest, (made much more atmospheric thanks to Mick Potter’s effective Sound Design) are as much (or more) down to its’ remarkable scenery as its performers.

Despite Robert Jones’ set wizardry, and Jon Driscoll’s showy projections, or possibly, due to them, other  aspects of the production, crucial to its’ success, like character development, gentle humour, humanity, and a particular kind of surrealism peculiar to both Oz and Dorothy herself have been blown away like so much sepia tinted Kansas soil. Missing are the begrudgingly cheerful interactions from the film’s opening providing vital links between characters as well as foreshadowing of what is to come, enabling us to realise that the day’s events had permeated Dorothy’s dream.  And, try as I might I could not remember the melody line of Lloyd Webber’s closing song for Wizard, Michael Crawford, “Farewell to Oz”, though Tim Rice’s lyrics are, as always, very cleverly rhymed.  More telling still, despite the fact that Danielle Hope’s singing of “Over the Rainbow” was clearly and prettily rendered, it failed to even remotely tug at the heart-strings as 16 year old Judy Garland’s had done.  All of which indicates that Garland’s Dorothy may have been right when she said, with wide, misty eyes at the film’s end, “There’s no place like home.”

 

 

Dorothy (Danielle Hope) on the Yellow Brick Road

Photo by Keith Pattison

 

http://www.wizardofozthemusical.com/
 
London Palladium
Argyll St, London W1F 7TF.
Argyll St runs between Oxford Street and Great Marlborough Street.

Nearest underground station is Oxford Circus (Central, Victoria and Bakerloo lines).

Box Office and 24 hour credit card bookings (no booking fee)
Tel: 0844 412 2957
 
Tuesday evenings at 7pm
Wednesday to Saturday evenings at 7.30pm
Wednesday & Saturday matinee at 2.30pm
Sunday matinee at 3pm*
*First Sun matinee 13 March 2011
Sophie Evans, runner up in Over the Rainbow, will play Dorothy on Tuesday evenings from the 8th March 2011 and for 7 performances in the weeks commencing 2 May, 5 September & 12 September 2011.
Over The Rainbow-winning Toto Dangerous Dave’s charity gala performance will be on 21st April.
 
Stalls £62.50, £55.00, £45.00, £37.50
Royal Circle £62.50
Upper Circle £37.50, £32.00, £25.00
Boxes £62.50, £32.00
All tickets include a 75p theatre restoration levy
GROUPS OF 10+
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Email: groups@seetickets.com
EDUCATION
SEE Education
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Email: education@seetickets.com
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