Kings Theatre, Edinburgh – until 27 February 2016
Guest reviewer: Susan Lowes
The Southern Light Opera Company charm and fascinate as they take the trip over the rainbow every day until Saturday at the Kings Theatre.
Based on Frank Baum’s 1900 tale, with music straight from the 1939 MGM motion picture score, director Andy Johnston has created an exuberant feast for the senses in The Wizard of Oz. This is the tale of young Dorothy Gale, played by Anna Chidgey, and her faithful dog Toto, (Milly the terrier) which begins in Kansas where the pair suffer dog-related trauma and run away from home.
They are subsequently swept up in a cyclone and transported to the magical land of Oz, where they encounter many friends and foes, experiencing twists and turns on their quest to return home.
Earlier this week, Johnston told All Edinburgh Theatre of the scale and complexity of this production. He doesn’t disappoint, either, with an epic extravaganza featuring a bright rainbow-coloured set by Scenic Projects. Not to forget innovative technical effects to represent a sense of scale, flying effects by Flying Fox and a whole host of pyrotechnics and special effects from Paul De Luca and James Gow. In particular, the use of video and projection to depict the cyclone scene is both innovative and impressive.
energy, excitement and cheer
In fact, there is plenty that impresses about this production even before the 65 strong adult cast, 80 strong child cast and Milly the dog join the stage. And when they do arrive, Johnston ensures that there’s always a lot to see, whether it is flying monkeys, dancing snowmen, Munchkin townsfolk or Winkie armies assaulting the senses.
The Lollipop Guild and Anna Chidgey. Photo Tracey Largue Photography
Sometimes there’s a little too much happening on stage, so it’s hard to know where to look. And in parts of the ensemble scenes, the company is crushed onto the stage, with choreography and spacing suffering somewhat.
But what this production lasts in finesse, it certainly makes up for in energy, excitement and cheer. The Munchkins are spectacular with Jessica Lyall and Elisa Sangrar in particular impressing in their roles as Munchkin Maidens.
The Lullaby League and the Lollipop Guilds – made up of Katarina Faiella, Emma Swain, Maia Ota, Ellis Faulds, Lewis Boyd and Baillie McGinley are heartwarming and unforgettable. It’s impossible to see how the Wicked Witch of the East could have terrorised them for so long!
terrorising the skies
Anna Chidgey plays a confident and assured Dorothy, leading Toto and the companions she meets along the way to the Emerald City. However, sometimes the scenery, special effects and her four-legged friend steal the limelight.
The Lullaby League. Photo Tracey Largue Photography
Elspeth Whyte is the embodiment of the Wicked Witch of the West – commanding monkey armies and terrorising the skies herself as she cackles and terrifies everyone around her. In fact, her performance can only be rivalled by Rory MacLean as the loveable and friendly scarecrow looking for a brain.
Overall this is a highly entertaining and exuberant production, accompanied by wonderfully performed classic songs that we all know and love – Over The Rainbow, We’re Off To See The Wizard, and Follow The Yellow Brick Road. The choreography, set changes and sound operation could benefit from a little smoothing out, but these don’t detract from the energy of the stage.
If you’re looking for a fun evening, packed with nostalgia, songs to tap your feet along to, and a technicolor extravaganza then look no further than Southern Light’s The Wizard of Oz. It certainly won’t disappoint.
Running time – 2 hours 40 minutes (including interval)
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street EH3 9LQ
Tuesday 23 – Saturday 27 February 2016
Evenings: 7.30pm; Sat matinee: 2.30pm/
Tickets and details: www.edtheatres.com/wizardofoz
Southern Light website: http://www.southernlightopera.co.uk/
SLO on facebook: SouthernLightOpera