The Wizard of Oz – Adelaide Theatre Academy and Theatre Bugs

The Wizard of Oz – Adelaide Theatre Academy and Theatre Bugs

This production had dual casts in the principal roles. In the interest of fairness to all, TASA reviewed both casts. Allison Thomas reviewed the Oz cast and Terry Mountstephen reviewed the Kansas cast.

The Norwood Concert Hall was packed with families of all ages for a performance of The Wizard of Oz.  This show involved 79 performers split over two separate casts.  Theatre Bugs and Adelaide Theatre Academy believe every child should have an opportunity to shine and so lines and parts were shared around the large ensemble, breaking away from traditional casting conventions.

The production was based on the classic motion picture. In Adelaide, it was a special event in the Adelaide Fringe Festival.

Oz Cast

The members of the Oz cast were very well rehearsed and organized. Samara Perkovic as Dorothy was superb as the leading character, with Samara’s beautiful voice, great facial and body expressions and clear diction giving clarity to the well known story. Caterina Landi, as her little black dog, Toto, crawled on her hands and knees through the whole 90 minute show and her devoted, expressive head movements, alert to everything, was absolutely engaging.

Elliot Purdie was the Tin Man who moved stiffly but sang and danced superbly. The audience especially loved his tap dance. Emily Rawlings’ Scarecrow and Ryan Tillman’s Cowardly Lion were both true to character – lots of fun.

Vasileia Markou, as The Wicked Witch of the West, was a bit high pitched in the first half, but she really scared one little child in the second act. Lily Stephenson as Hickory did an excellent characterization of a country boy. Annabel King played Miss Gulch as a very nasty character. Jack Wake-Dyster as The Wizard of Oz calmly and confidently brought the story threads together at the end.

The number of costume changes was amazing! So Emily Jaensch and Emma Sayers and their team must have been very busy with colourful velvet trees, rainbow munchkins, red poppies, winged crows and monkey and 14 jitterbugs as well as the whole cast in Emerald Oz green. The Munchkins costumes were very colourful, but some of them were a bit creased.

Kate Prescott’s minimal set design with shadows of trees and realistic looking rocks was stunningly augmented by a huge screen at the back of the stage, where forest scenes and yellow brick road scenes, as well as movies of twisters and clouds were projected. Well done to the Set and Props Construction Team Kate Prescott, Malcolm Walton, Andrew Gehling, Neil Martin and Sharon Malujlo. The best part was the whirly twister, with black clad dancers with brown cloudy veils, spinning around the stage which was amazingly effective. Also the clever visual scene and set changes by the cast. For example, picking up petals; hiding cookies and retrieving apples by Toto.

Lighting Director and Sound Designer Georgina Brass and Lighting Operator, Thom Papps and Choreographer and Projection and Sound Operator Jacinta Vistoli made a fabulous team to create the many audio and visual special effects, along with some beautiful dancing, especially coordinating about 30 dancers and performers.

Musical Direction and Operation by Nicole Willis was well timed and executed. Microphones are always dicey and the challenges of the first half of the show were resolved by Balun Dwyer-Reid in the second half.

The audience of mostly families enjoyed a great version of The Wizard of Oz, well produced by Michael Eustice.

It’s a pity the season isn’t longer.

Kansas Cast

The Kansas cast shone, from the members of the Lullaby League and Lollipop Guild to the leads.  Occasionally a combination of an accent and speaking too fast made some performers difficult to understand, but it’s a story we all know so it didn’t detract from our enjoyment.  Notable exceptions to this were Glinda (Emma Palumbo) and the Cowardly Lion (Ethan Joy) who delivered their lines with clarity and precision.

In the lead role of Dorothy Gale, Amelia Boys was the quintessential Dorothy.  She totally inhabited her character.  Boys has a delightful voice and delivered ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ sweetly and yet her voice had strength and clarity in the high notes.  Boys’ array of expressions on her face effectively conveyed the emotions of her character throughout.

Scarecrow played by Abby Hall maintained the Scarecrow’s floppy movements even when not in the limelight, staying true to the character’s physicality regardless of where the focus of the scene lay.  Thomas Tirrell portrayed the Tinman with remarkable skill, demonstrating excellence in singing, and acting, and embodying the precise movements essential to this role.  His well executed tap dance during ‘If I Only Had a Heart’ added an unexpected and delightful element.

Ethan Joy’s portrayal of the Cowardly Lion was both hilarious and engaging.  His ability to make eye contact with the audience and fully embrace the character’s quirks and mannerisms made for a truly captivating performance.  Joy’s portrayal captured all the nuances of the Cowardly Lion, making it one of the most memorable live performances of the character I’ve witnessed.

Luna Clear, portraying Toto maintained character consistency by staying on her knees throughout the performance and seamlessly interacting with her fellow actors.  Lauren Thyer as Miss Gulch portrayed the character with strength, effectively embodying the necessary hostility and nastiness demanded by the role.  She also rode a bike with a trailer on stage in a relatively small space without a hitch!  As with many of the leads (including Glinda, Aunt Em, Uncle Henry and others) it was delightful to see her back on stage later as a strong member of the ensemble.

The talent of the young performers was quite impressive.  Ada Gray’s portrayal of Zeke, the farmhand, was strong and convincing.  The Wicked Witch of the West (Jenna Saint) was suitably scary and menacing.  While many of the cast deserve recognition, regrettably, I don’t have the space to individually highlight each one.

On several occasions, the ensemble was required to sing in the wings, and it was consistently well executed.  Overall, the majority of the singing was of a very high standard.  Understandably given the high-energy dancing, the cast showed some signs of breathlessness during the concluding moments of the Jitterbug.

The cast demonstrated thorough rehearsal in all aspects of the performance.  The choreography was executed seamlessly, with every member in sync, ensuring a cohesive and polished presentation without any noticeable discrepancies.  The ensemble was smiling and enthusiastic throughout the performance.

The collective talent and dedication of all contributed to an outstanding production.

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