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BWW Review: THE WIZARD OF OZ at Crown Theatre

HAMA Productions kicks off 2022 with a colourful and fun production

BWW Review: THE WIZARD OF OZ at Crown Theatre

THE WIZARD OF OZ is a story familiar to many, with the 1939 film being a veritable classic, many stage versions are put on the world over, and its prequel/spin-off Wicked is one of the biggest musicals of the century. HAMA Productions pulled out all the stops to stage a spectacular production at Crown Theatre, with an entertaining, energetic and colourful production being a wonderful way to kick off 2022 in the theatre.

The lead role of Dorothy was played brilliantly by Amy McCann. Amy played the same role in a 2019 production at the Regal Theatre and has grown into the role a great deal. Spending most of the show on stage, McCann was entertaining and quickly got the audience (even the younger members of it) interested in her storyline. As much as you may know what happens to Dorothy, McCann's portrayal was engaging and interesting throughout. Add to that her wonderful singing voice and Amy McCann comes across as an ideal Dorothy. West End star Lucy Williamson plays the Wicked Witch, and she truly shines in the role. Williamson is a world-renowned performer and she shows why, tormenting the leads throughout whilst entertaining the audience. As Glinda the Good Witch is Rachael Beck, an icon of Australia entertainment. Her warmth and energy are the perfect bookends for the show, setting Dorothy on her journey at the start and rounding it out at the end.

BWW Review: THE WIZARD OF OZ at Crown Theatre
Amy McCann makes a perfect Dorothy

The three friends Dorothy meets on her journey were also excellent. Vincent Hooper is a brilliant Cowardly Lion. He brought laughs from young and old alike with his humour, showing parts of the Lion recognizable from the film whilst adding some extra flair. You can read more about Hooper's role in my interview with him here. Isabella McSporran (in one of her biggest roles to date) is a delightfully clumsy Scarecrow, entertaining the audience, singing excellently, and being full of energy for the whole show, indicating that there will be many more big roles ahead of her. Ethan Churchill plays the Tin Man, showing off his versatility in the Tin Man's warming sub-plot.

THE WIZARD OF OZ features many brilliant performers shining with less stage time. Mike Nayar truly makes a wonderful Wizard in a hilarious portrayal of the title role. Finley Award winner Genevieve Newman is an excellent Aunt Em, Caleb Stevens a strong Uncle Henry, and Brandyn Kaczmarczyk makes a perfectly dark General of the Wicked Witch's soldiers. As Nikkos, the head of the Witch's winged army is Ben Cruse whose dance skills came to the fore in a role that is full of energetic and sharp movements. This reviewers' scientific background was quietly frustrated at the flying monkeys being apes but that needn't detract from Cruse's or indeed any of the excellent ensemble's performance.

Greg Jarema's hilarious and over the top portrayal of the Guard of Oz delightfully set up the second act whilst also threatening to steal it. Jarema is another performer who showed off their versatility here, using his many skills whilst adding plenty of sass. He left the stage (at one point literally) on a high note. Similarly, ever-the-entertainer Jamie Mercanti is an endearing Mayor of Munchkin Land.

If one can judge a show by the quality in its ensemble, then THE WIZARD OF OZ is top notch. The ensemble is full of talented individuals who can (and in many cases, often do) play leading roles, sadly too many to single out as they were all excellent. Indeed, each number that featured the large ensemble was an absolute site to behold. As well as the adult ensemble was an excellent cast of children as the Munchkins. They all did an excellent job and no doubt have a future in theater ahead of them if that's the path they choose. Special mention to Coco, the talented dog that played Toto. The audience (and the cast) were clearly enamored with her, with a palpable sense of excitement every time she graced the stage.

BWW Review: THE WIZARD OF OZ at Crown Theatre
The large ensemble and impressive set are excellent additions
to an already entertaining show

With such a large stage and cast there is much to do behind the scenes. Olivia Collier's directorship adds plenty to the show, using each cast member- as many as there are- to full effect. Choreographer Natashia Klarich had a cast and ensemble that literally never missed a beat with many wonderful dance pieces and set designer Bryan Woltjen created a truly magical land of Oz, whilst Harry Oliff's musical directing ensured that the songs- many of which are from the 1939 film- brought out nostalgia from those familiar with them whilst showcasing the breadth of on-stage talent.

THE WIZARD OF OZ goes big in everything it does, and it hit all its notes perfectly. No one who knows and loves the film would find anything lacking, whilst anyone not familiar with the film will get plenty from the talented and energetic cast. HAMA Productions and Crown Theatre kick off 2022 with a wonderful WIZARD OF OZ that will delight young and old.

THE WIZARD OF OZ is at Crown Theatre until January 22nd, with many matinee/early shows to charm younger audiences. More information through Crown Theatre and Ticketek.

Pictures thanks to HAMA Productions.

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