Reviewed by Trish Francis
This production of The Wizard of Oz, draws its cast from the Youth and Junior members and all perform with an enthusiasm that is endearing to watch. Directors Penny and Michaela Phillips should be applauded for creating an affordable opportunity for these young people to tread the boards.
This alternative version of the story still includes the expected tornado; death of witch by falling house; ruby slippers and a road trip with scarecrow, tinman and cowardly lion.
Caleb Bond puts on a fine performance as Uncle Henry, with natural and accomplished acting, some of the best of the evening. Annika Barry as Dorothy displays a few early nerves; lines a little rushed and singing breathless, but this is soon overcome. In her duet with the suitably exuberant Scarecrow, Lachlan Blackwell, there is a chemistry and sense of fun that make this number a highlight.
Zach Taylor as Tin man has a delightful pan face expression and dry delivery of comic lines. Lion Nathan Smith has some strong moments but fails to deliver the nuances of a real scaredy cat.
Georgia Gustard as the heroine Glinda should smile a little more to impart a greater sweetness but when we hear her singing she displays a beautiful vocal quality. Kristyn Barnes as the Wicked Witch lacked a musical consistency but her characterisation was strong and I could quite easily have gone on stage and wrung her neck myself! Well done.
Maddy as Toto is completely at home on the stage and perfectly behaved! This dog is a star in the making!
Mention must be made of the high quality fantastical costumes, created by a community women’s group, and Damon Hill and Penny Phillips’ colourful and cartoonesque sets were a perfect backdrop.
The script writer, in avoiding musical copyright issues in her adaptation, leaves us cheated out of a rendition of Somewhere over the Rainbow and other classics, and perplexed at their replacement with parodies of well-known tunes such as Danny Boy and Cat Like Tread. In this performance the use of piano accompaniment for some numbers and backing tracks for others cemented the discord and emphasised what was missing rather than celebrating the use of alternative musical creations. The cast deserved better.
Nevertheless there is a real sense of grass roots theatre for the young, and heart-warming community effort rewarded by an enthusiastic response from the audience of family and friends.