The Wizard of Oz
L Frank Baum, adapted by John Kane, music & lyrics by Harold Arlen & E Y Harburg
Selladoor Family & Blackpool Winter Gardens
Opera House, Blackpool
‘Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore...’
So says the wizard-hunting Dorothy, even though there are times when the vast stage of this venue could seem more like the American prairies.
It certainly doesn’t daunt the Selladoor production company too much. In less than 10 years, they have built a well-deserved reputation on re-staging large-scale classic musical theatre shows, or taking even more of a chance on all-new stagings. Their Wizard of Oz here is one of two of their shows at the resort’s Winter Gardens complex.
And whatever L Frank Baum was on when he wrote his wildly-imaginative tale, this performance sticks to the trippy colour scheme of the 1939 Technicolor movie, and John Kane’s stage adaptation—originally for the Royal Shakespeare Company—also honours much of the cinema narrative.
With the now almost-traditional Christmas show mix of a soap star here, an X Factory starlet there, a cast of slick professionals, strong dance ensemble and a dozen local Munchkins, this Oz also features a couple of four-legged homegrown canine character actors as Toto.
When a lot of them are on stage together, there’s a more confident feel to the performance, especially when the dance troupe come into their own in the second act.
Holly Tandy, as Dorothy, is not the first X Factor hopeful to step into musical theatre shoes (red and glittery here, obviously) though her stage confidence is under development. Emmerdale’s Kelvin Fletcher has enough acting mettle to make a viable Tin Man, but Kieran McGinn and local radio DJ Scott Gallagher, as Scarecrow and Lion, establish strong characters. The latter even emulates Bert Lahr’s distinctive chuckle from the movie.
Sarah Tullamore is an excellent cackling witch and Charlotte Scott a suitably sweet Glinda. Along with Kate Milner-Evans as Wizard, they all three demonstrate a head for heights, being whisked into the lofty fly tower of the Opera House.
Backstage, Chris Whybrow and Jack Weir have designed a sound and light show that delivers giant-sized effects to match the ambitious scale of an inventive and entertaining production.