Review: THE WIZARD OF OZ at Harlequin Musical Theatre

What did our critic think of The Wizard of Oz?

By: Apr. 26, 2024
Review: THE WIZARD OF OZ at Harlequin Musical Theatre
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Reviewed by Sharon Fogarty

It is hard to imagine that a book written in 1900 could still have themes that are relevant today- but the power of friendship, loyalty, love, self-belief and courage are themes that resonant to this day and were on full display at Harlequin Musical Theatres production of 'The Wizard of Oz'. Seasoned, award-winning director John Fausett has created a vision that is reminiscent of the 1939 movie starring Judy Garland, and alongside Phillip Liu's impeccable band, it is a joyous trip through yesteryear- right down to the blue socks and Ruby Slippers

Michaela Ralph-Smith's portrayal of Dorothy was excellent. Her lilting soprano was clear and crisp in the well-known and well-loved 'Somewhere over the Rainbow', her connection with Toto and her three friends was natural and genuine. She was in character throughout the show which is difficult to do when you are in almost every scene! Daniel Wright's Scarecrow was goofy and fun, Patrick Cunneen's Tinman was amusing, whilst Avaneesh Belwalkar's portrayal of lion was heartfelt and consistent. Belwalkar's commitment to character and his rich vocals made him an ideal lion. This quartet made for an entertaining watch.

Lindsey Bown as the Wicked Witch/Miss Gulch had superb stage presence. She exudes nastiness in every scene and I can see the children in the audience banding together to hate her. Brown's villainy was juxtaposed well with Penelope Hamilton's grace and elegance as Glinda/Aunt Em and this was a solid depiction of 'good' vs. 'evil'. Robin Lane, as the hapless namesake of the show is perfectly cast, bringing levity to every scene he is in. 

The ensemble worked hard to deliver in multiple scenes and choreographer Molly Griffiths has had to work with multiple dance styles and abilities in this show covering tap, ballet and the very effective munchkin dance that I won't spoil! Emily Young as vocal coach had the difficulty of a classic score but she has developed moments where the ensemble can shine such as Gabriella Oyanedel, Quinn Hallas and Heidi Purchase's sweet moment as the Lullaby league. 

The true star of the show is Sasa as Toto. Spritely and sassy, she works the stage and I have no doubt audiences will fall in love with her as she keeps the entire cast and crew on their toes over the season.

Louise Griffiths costuming is excellent and brings to life the different characters and their energies- particularly Glinda's elegance and the Wicked Witch's evil heart. There is a nod to tradition but also a modern twist which I very much appreciated. 

A great show for the school holidays- with great values, humour, colour and with the added bonus of a real Toto  dog on stage- what more could you want?


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