Disclosure: we were given press tickets free of charge & interval snacks for the purpose of this review.
Last week we attended the press night for The Wizard of Oz at The REP Birmingham and were absolutely blown away by the show. It was totally fantastic, from start to finish – all four of us really enjoyed it.
Based on the Judy Garland movie, this version of the story was originally adapted by John Kane for the Royal Shakespeare Company, and has been brought to the stage by the Birmingham Repertory Theatre Company this winter. It has the original music from the 1939 film, and both the characters and the music have been updated & modernised to suit this adaptation.
I love that the show creators weren’t afraid to mix it up with different genres and go against the stereotypes of what each character should look (or sound!) like, including changing the gender of the lion so it became the “Queen of the Forest”. It gave the show a fresh & modern feel while still staying true to the original story.
The main character, Dorothy Gale, is played by Chisara Agor and her entire performance was really brilliant – her singing voice is amazing and she really puts her heart and soul into the role. Chisara brings the character into the modern age, making her feistier that her on screen counterpart. Jos Vantyler plays Miss Gulch / The Wicked Witch of the West, and he is outstanding in the role – a baddie you love to hate.
As well as fantastic music and characters, the show has some amazing sets and simply brilliant costumes. The wonderful munchkin puppets were the girls’ favourites, and they’ve been singing the “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” song since we saw the show.
They went for a 1950s era with the design and the costumes for both the Kansas and Oz characters reflected that, in addition to the clever sets. Light up archways and staircases were moved around and changed colours to represent the rainbow, the yellow brick road, and so on – simple but super effective.
The choreography throughout was fab, too – with the tin man doing some fab hip hop ‘lock and pop’ moves – and the whole ensemble were brilliantly entertaining. Of course, the dog Toto steals the whole show! He is played by one of three ‘real live dogs’ (as Georgie put it) while the story is set in Kansas, and by a fab puppet during the Oz scenes.
Overall we really enjoyed the production, with all of us coming away really entertained and with the songs in our heads. What I would really love would be a cast recording of the score now, we enjoyed their versions so much!
We highly recommend this for audiences of (almost) all ages – the REP website suggests 7 years+, though our 5 year old Lydia loved it as much as I did. I wouldn’t take along a child much younger than that, though, as it is quite a long show for little ones to sit through. I would go again in a heartbeat, if I could!