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  • Writer's pictureRosie Sharman-Ward

REVIEW: THE WIZARD OF OZ @ THEATRE ROYAL PLYMOUTH

🎭 The Wizard of Oz 

📍 The Lyric, Theatre Royal Plymouth, Royal Parade, Plymouth, Devon, PL1 2TR

🗓 Wednesday 27th March 2024

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️



FABULOUS FAMILY FUN


Blazing with colour and bursting with songs, this feel-good production of The Wizard of Oz makes for an exhilarating evening’s entertainment. Capturing all the charm of the iconic 1939 Judy Garland film version, the outstanding cast deliver all the favourite songs, and a handful of great new ones from the Andrew Lloyd-Webber / Tim Rice dream team, with élan.  


Aviva Tulley as Dorothy is entrancing. From slightly sulky teenager to confident young woman, her performance is warm and believable. Tulley also possesses a beautiful voice, particularly enjoyable when singing Over the Rainbow and belting out Ding Dong the Witch is Dead. She is, of course, accompanied by faithful friend Toto, whose brilliant puppeteer Abigail Matthews somehow makes themselves invisible, giving us a very endearing doggy character to love. 



Nic Greenshields as The Cowardly Lion, while reminiscent of Bert Lahr, brings much hilarity from his own personality. Femi Akinfolarin creaks painfully into life as The Tin Man and Benjamin Yates is very watchable as the lovable, rather dim Scarecrow. The rapport on stage between the three of them and Dorothy is a delight to watch. They are all great singers with immaculate comic timing. Clever choreography gives us an almost break-dancing Tin Man as he creaks from rusty back to running order, frequent tears jeopardising his recovery. We are also treated to surprisingly athletic flopping and rolling from Scarecrow, Yates is a natural mover!  


Then there is The Vivienne. Her performance as The Wicked Witch of the West is a triumph. Pitched at exactly the right level of evil baddie, she cackles her way around the stage on precipitous, pin sharp heels, dispensing nasty spells, threats and commands without displacing a single purple hair. Frankly I cannot see her wearing the beautiful but rather homely Red Slippers, they are virtually flats baby!  



David Burrows is a great, grumpy Uncle Henry struggling to understand his teen niece. Sparkly good witch Glinda, Emily Bull, gives a stunning rendition of Already Home and Alex Bourne as Professor Marvel and The Wizard is deliciously batty. The entire company give excellent, enthusiastic performances. The ensemble numbers are a joy to behold. The costumes are absolutely gorgeous, their themes adding a great deal to the narrative. 


The bold use of video projection throughout gives a modern feel not often associated with this much treasured story and is extremely effective. As we are whisked from gloomy Kansas in the Depression era to the razzle dazzle Land of Oz via tornado, quite a few of the audience jump or duck flying objects. There are a few pieces of physical set, my favourite being a squashed witch, which are intelligently moved and re used at strategic moments in the show, however the projection does the heavy lifting combined with ever changing bands of light. Should your attention wander momentarily you may enjoy the references to other shows and the 1939 film scattered through the projected images. 


Enjoyable though this happy show is there were one or two irritants. It was overloud which was uncomfortable and when Dorothy sang Over the Rainbow in the first act, she was drowned out by the backing singers. A real shame as she has a lovely, powerful voice and it is such a key moment in the show 


At times the stage looked to be really cramped. Once we had seen the yellow brick road perhaps the projection could have taken over. It didn't add enough to make it worthwhile, hampering movement on stage.  



Despite these minor issues it is a fabulous, family show with a perfect balance of nostalgia and innovation. It is uplifting, funny, clever and with a strong moral message, perfect to cheer up this rainy start to the Easter break. Treat yourselves and the children / grandchildren, go and visit The Wizard of Oz. 


The Wizard of Oz runs at Theatre Royal Plymouth until Saturday 30th March before heading off for the rest of the tour. Tickets are selling fast and there is already limited availability for some performances. Head to www.theatreroyal.com soon to avoid disappointment.  


Rosie Sharman-Ward 


All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest, fair and free from influence. Theatre is subjective and it is important to remember that all views expressed are just those of one reviewer.


My ticket for this performance of The Wizard of Oz was gifted by the Theatre Royal Plymouth who invited me to watch the show in exchange for my honest review. The fact that my ticket was gifted played no part in the content of my review or the star rating given.



FULL CAST LIST:

Aviva Tulley as Dorothy; The Vivienne as Ms Gulch / The Wicked Witch of the West; Benjamin Yates as The Scarecrow / Hunk; Femi Akinfolarin as The Tin Man / Hickory; Nic Greenshields as The Cowardly Lion / Zeke; Alex Bourne as Professor Marvel / The Wizard; Emily Bull as Glinda / Aunt Em; Abigail Matthews as Toto; David Burrows as Uncle Henry

Ensemble: Cole Dunn; Tyler Ephraim; Olivia Kate Holding; Thomas Kalek; Sadie Levett; Fanja Parent; Nathan Routledge; Sydney Spencer

Onstage Swing: Adam Craig; Katie-Rae Marshall; Rose Ouellette

Offstage Swing: Martin McCarthy; Alexandra Regan


RUNNING TIME (approx):

2 hours 10 minutes, including interval




The Theatre Royal Plymouth is the principle home of the performing arts in the South West and is the largest and most attended regional producing theatre in the country. Their mission is to develop and deepen people's engagement with pioneering creativity in Plymouth and the South West, delivering experiences that spark delight, expression and fulfilment. The venue offers three performance spaces of various sizes, the largest being The Lyric which accommodates the big touring productions. The Drum and The Lab are smaller, intimate spaces and often offer pioneering productions.

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