The Wizard of Oz at London Palladium
The Wizard of Oz is a renowned classic that has stood the test of time, captivating audiences for over a century. Each year, adaptations of this beloved tale grace the stages of the UK, and this year’s rendition is no exception. Helmed by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jeremy Sams, this version stays true to the essence of the original 1900 book, following Dorothy’s yearning to escape Kansas and her encounters with the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion in their quest to find the Wizard of Oz and fulfil their deepest desires.
Director Rebecca Louis sets the tone with a cinematic overture, immersing us in Dorothy’s world. Georgina Onuorah’s portrayal of Dorothy is captivating, embodying her innocence, strength and vulnerability with finesse. Her exceptional vocal talent and heartfelt performance add depth to the character, though there are moments when her earnestness feels somewhat out of place with the play’s almost pantomime-like nature.
The interplay between Dianne Pilkington as the Wicked Witch of the West and Christina Bianco as the Good Witch Glinda provides a balance between Dorothy’s more serious moments and the comedic relief offered by the trio of Scarecrow (Louis Gaunt), Tin Man (Ashley Banjo) and Lion (Jason Manford). While their stage performances occasionally miss the mark, they nonetheless deliver an enjoyable experience for newcomers to the world of Oz and devoted fans. Banjo’s voice may fall short, but his movement, dance and agility on stage compensate for it, showcasing a fluidly rigid interpretation of the Tin Man. Manford’s commanding presence as the Cowardly Lion makes him almost unrecognisable. His portrayal brilliantly captures the Lion’s timid nature, incorporating a touch of a 1930s boxer to breathe life into the character.
A special mention for the role of Toto, played by Ben Thompson, whose mastery of puppetry brought a unique and captivating element to the cast. Thompson’s ability to embody the dog’s persona with such skill that the audience hardly recognises the puppeteer behind it is truly remarkable. Toto’s presence on stage was nothing short of a wonder, adding extra layers of enchantment to the production.
While some may question the necessity of yet another staging of The Wizard of Oz, the enduring popularity of this production speaks volumes about the timeless appeal of the story and its ability to charm audiences across generations. It pays homage to the traditions of the original show while attempting to introduce fresh elements, even though they are not always successfully sustained. For those seeking a nostalgic and heartwarming experience, this rendition serves as a delightful reminder of the 1939 film that introduced us to the magical land of Oz, capturing what we have grown to know and love.
Image: Marc Brenner
The Wizard of Oz is at London Palladium from 13th July until 3rd September 2023. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.