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The Wizard of Oz Review - By John Murray

Following a successful run of Wicked at the Edinburgh Playhouse, the next part of the story has now arrived in town in the form of the Really Useful Group touring production of The Wizard Of Oz. With over 21,000 pre-sales, there is plenty of anticipation from fans of this classic story, but would this adaption deliver and, ultimately, would Dorothy and her dog, Toto find their way home?


For starters, what a cast. Playing the part of The Wicked Witch Of The West is the original winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, The Vivienne. The Vivienne has gone from strength to strength in releasing her music and appearing on RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Star All-Winners Show broadcast across American television before becoming the first drag queen to appear on a primetime UK reality series with Dancing On Ice. Her stardom hit new peaks when she opened the Eurovision Song Contest opening ceremony live from Liverpool, performing Waterloo to a global audience. The Wicked Witch Of The West is a role The Vivienne is born to play. Dominating every scene with her larger-than-life personality and armed with a pyro-producing broom, this was a riveting performance.


Comedy actor Gary Wilmot reprises his role as The Wizard from the London Palladium summer season (and indeed in Wicked at the Apollo Victoria) and fresh from the Palladium pantomime season as Mrs Henrietta Hook in Peter Pan. Gary Wilmont is also famous for the iconic role of Bill Snibson in Me And My Girl, which made him a theatre star. Although he doesn't have much stage time, he oozes professionalism and confidence and is well-appreciated by the audience.


First opening in 2011 the show is based on the 1939 movie and retains the classic Harold Arlen songs as well as new material with music by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics from Sir Tim Rice. What show can fail with this material? From the very start, after an impressive overture from Lestyn Griffiths and his ten-piece orchestra, we hear the most endearing and inspirational song from a musical when Aviva Tulley takes centre stage for Somewhere Over The Rainbow. In what must be her first major role, Iestyn commands the stage with a perfect rendition of the song we know so well. Special mention to go to the projection designer. To produce the hurricane effects and travel to a simple moving skyline all created by Douglas O’Connell is very impressive. They are all crystal clear and enhance the live performance beneath.


We also are introduced to Dorothy's new friends in the form of an energetic Benjamin Yates as The Scarecrow who delivers well in his big hit with If I Only Had A Brain. You also meet a rusty but comic Tin Man (Marley Fenton), and a loveable Cowardly Lion played by Nic Greenshields who, it must be said gets all the best one-liners. Make-up and costumes throughout the piece are wild enough to be seen in the upper circle.


Further songs like Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead, Off To See The Wizard and Yellow Brick Road lead to a happy ending back to Kansas for the finale and a chance for more stunning choreography created by Shay Barclay. There were some great moments from Toto (Dorothy’s dog) played by Abigail Matthews, with the design created by Rachel Canning.


The Wizard of Oz is a show that lives up to the hype. Although the L Frank Baum's story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is over 120 years old, the material is still as timeless with brilliant characters, and impressive choreography. It brings theatre lovers across all generations to Edinburgh Playhouse.



This production has been rated ★★★★


The Wizard of Oz runs at Edinburgh Playhouse until the 17th of February. Book tickets here: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-wizard-of-oz/edinburgh-playhouse/. The musical hits Glasgow and Aberdeen this July with Craig Revel Horwood, and Panto legend, Allan Stewart taking on the roles of The Wicked Witch of The West and The Wizard. For full details visit: https://uktour.wizardofozmusical.com/.

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