dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
A Wizard of Oz full of wonder
The wonderful Wizard of Oz is given a makeover at Birmingham's Repertory Theatre with a family show full of colour and music. Director Liam Steel has said he didn't want to simply recreate the classic film but rather give audiences a more modern telling of the story. In doing so, he has used neon lighting, puppetry, special effects and modern costumes.
Dorothy, played by Chisara Agor, is a dungaree-wearing slightly troublesome teenager, determined to go her own way. When her dog Toto is taken from her she decides to run away – and so begin all of the troubles. When a tornado hits Kansas, the rest of her family are safely inside but Dorothy is trapped in the farmhouse.
Designer Angela Davies has a task on her hands recreating the house being swept up in the storm and flown away to the land of Oz but her team manage brilliantly with panels breaking away from the walls and furniture racing around the stage.
Once in Oz, we are treated to a brightly lit world of wonder where Scarecrows can talk, Tin Men come to life and Lions are cowards. Together with her motley crew, Dorothy sets out to find the Wizard of Oz, who can make all of their dreams come true. Steel and Davies take many of the ideas from the 1939 classic film but they play around with them. So the dainty ruby slippers are replaced by glittering red boots, the Wicked Witch of the West is played by a man and the Wizard becomes a woman.
Chisara is a spirited Dorothy determined to do all she can go get home to her family – even witches and wizards are obstacles to overcome. Jos Vantyler towers over the rest of the cast as the Wicked Witch of the West – a formidable foe for any stray youngsters. Lorna Laidlaw is also wonderful as the wizard – as she points out that Scarecrow already has a brain, Tin Man a heart and the Lion is as courageous as any of us, you can feel the lump in your throat. There is plenty of humour in this show but there's also a clear message about the importance of family, of valuing those you love and of striving to achieve your dreams.
Fans of the musical won't be disappointed as the classic songs including 'Over the Rainbow', 'Ding-Dong The Witch is Dead' and 'Follow the Yellow Brick Road' are all included – although sometimes given an added twist. There's also an additional song – The Jitterbug – which sees Dorothy and her friends being danced into exhaustion.
The Rep teams have pulled out all the plugs to ensure this is a Christmas show to remember with giant puppets, witches who melt into the ground and dramatic tornadoes. It's definitely worth the journey to see this Wizard of Oz.