THERE probably hasn’t been a time when so many people have imagined that there is a better world “somewhere over the rainbow” – so it was a clever touch in this Stage 65 production to have Uncle Henry and Aunt Em’s Kansas farm-hands looking at their mobile phones and an instantly recognisable president’s voice on the radio after the storm radio.
Clever too not to overwork the nod to contemporary events, although the appalling bully Miss Gultch Kirsty Souter) was a brash urban figure, with her towering stilettos and strappy dress – so unsuitable for a farming area!
Dave Orme brought great pace to the production, aided by smart choreography by Julia Cave, and a terrific accompaniment played by musical director and multi-instrumentalist Jim Whitcher and drummer Phil Marriott and keyboard player Dan Smith.
Along with Oliver!, The Wizard of Oz must be one of the most popular musicals for youth theatre groups, and it’s obvious why – it has a huge cast of colourful characters with lots of opportunities for young people of all ages and abilities.
This is an exceptionally talented group, and there were terrific performances from all the principals – Kitty Fox as the feisty Dorothy, Katie Ereira as Aunt Em and the good witch Glinda, Amy Whitham hilariously nasty as the Wicked Witch of the West, Oliver Hopkins as the cowardly lion doubling as farmhand Zeke, Rachel Burgess as the Tin Man and farmhand Hickory, Mackenzie Terry as Scarecrow and farmhand Hunk, and Natasha Payne as Professor Marvel and Oz The Great and Powerful.
It is impossible and invidious to pick out individuals among the many set-pieces and ensembles, but the five Crows were particularly good, and the Twister scene was exciting and very well directed.