Sunday, 2 September 2012

Wizard of Oz

On 24th August 2012 I made Coster history, and went to see my first ever West End show.   And what a one I managed to pick.  Sneaking into one of the last showings of Wizard of Oz (as it is due to close on the 2nd September), I was lucky even to get a ticket.  The theatre was absolutely rammed, as the audience all wanted to say farewell to the classic musical and I don’t doubt that it’s going to stay just as packed throughout the remaining 8 days.

Resurrected by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s somewhat cheesy hand, I was impressed at how true the musical stayed to the original film.  Obviously, it had all the main recognizable hits such as ‘Ding Dong the Witch is dead, ‘Follow the yellow brick road’ and, of course, ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow.’  These were beautifully performed by Sophie Evans, who played a red haired version of Dorothy to absolute perfection.  She was feisty yet totally sweet at the right moments, maintained a realistic Kansas twang and handled ‘Toto’ with well-practiced control, displaying she was clearly a dog lover.  Most importantly, she was also pitch perfect.  I watched her on the BBC talent programme a couple of years ago, that landed her the role (after she was declared runner up) and, although back then she displayed her ability, it still didn’t really prepare me for just how good she was.  The two extra years of training meant that she gave a super polished performance throughout the whole show that I wouldn’t be able to fault, even if I had wanted to.
The rest of the cast were of a similarly high standard; particularly Des O’Connor (Wizard); Edward Baker-Duly (Tin Man); Paul Keating (Scarecrow); Martin Callaghan (Lion) and Marianne Benedict (Wicked Witch of the West); with no one putting a foot or a note wrong.  The gently humourous script made the three companions of Dorothy hugely entertaining and a favourite amongst the children in the audience. Similarly Benedict's flight over the audience and her blunt 'Shut it, you' aimed at one member who was booing a little too vocally, softened her mean character, allowing her to be given hearty cheers when her curtain call came at the end.
Finally, what added to the show in a way I have never seen to the same high standard, were the great use of sound and stage effects, used constantly throughout.  There was not only the normal ones you would expect, but also fire, (yes, real fire. I was sitting in the second row and could feel the heat of it); a revolving stage, animations using not only a video but also a house that moved around in a simulated kind of way...and of course there was a fair bit of flying as well from both the witches and some flying monkeys. These are unequal to anything that a regional theatre can offer and enhanced the whole fantastic experience in such a way that I am sure it is one I will never ever forget.
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  1. This whole post definitely shows that you had never been to a west end musical!! They are all incredible like you describe the Wizard of Oz! You must start seeing more now!! Although they are not particularly cheap.

    1. Yeah I know...that was kind of my point. I was going to make it a general post about West End musicals but as I haven't seen any others I didn't feel that I should. So I just described my experience at the Wizard of Oz. But I figured they would all be of a similar quality.