The Wizard of Oz

Written by Si Foster

St Helens Theatre Royal

Regal Entertainments

February 16 - February 23, 2020

Mia Molloy as Dorothy and Reece Sibbald as the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz. All pics: company

Families have the chance to go over the rainbow this February half term as Regal Entertainments revisits one of its most popular pantomimes of recent years. Refreshed from Easter 2019 with new cast members and songs, the show tells the familiar tale of Dorothy Gale and her trip to Oz to do battle with the Wicked Witch of the West. The Wizard of Oz is admittedly not the easiest fit for adaptation into a panto. There is no love story, no Dame (but writer Si Foster is there in spirit and gets in a few "Yoo Hoos" by proxy), and the need to use the original songs from the film means a reduction of the obligatory pop hits. As such, the conventional panto traditions and gags sometimes feel slightly shoe-horned into the narrative - the audience needs occasional encouragement to join in with familiar cries of "behind you". But overall, it works, with a hard-working and talented cast making the most of the material. This is particularly true vocally, as this is one of the best-sung pantos I’ve seen at the venue in recent years. The famous songs are all beautifully performed. A clear audience favourite is Reece Sibbald as the Scarecrow, who has an easy charm and a lovely voice. A clear natural on stage, a highly original section in which he shrinks is very funny. Alongside him, Mia Malloy is a sweetly-earnest Dorothy, Harry Moore a likeable Tin Man and Timothy Lucas a committed Lion. Samantha Palin gets to show off her impressive rock voice as the Witch: her rendition of Bat Out of Hell is a real highlight. Abigail Middleton plays a dignified and graceful good witch, Glinda. Stage and screen regular James Lusted is a fun Wizard, and special mention must go to Buddy the dog, who showed no stage fright as Toto (you can follow him on Instagram at its_so_buddy). Senior and juvenile dancers add good support to the principal cast, and kudos to producers for having live music from musical supervisor Callum Clarke supporting the action. The sets and costumes throughout are effective, especially the monochrome vision of Kansas that opens the show and the gleaming Emerald City. Fans of the musical Wicked will enjoy the Act 1 closer One Short Day, which replaces the usual transformation scene. The show feels a little long – a section that is mainly a plug for the forthcoming Easter panto could easily be ditched, and the set change for the ultra-violet puppet section a bit overdone, though my five year old loved this bit. Before the house lights had even gone up he asked if we could go again – quite an endorsement. #WizardofOz #Halftermfun #regalentertainments


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