REVIEW: A bright and cheerful family adventure in the land of Oz

Adrienne Cox as Dorothy and Buster Underhill as Toto. Picture by Sam Taylor
Adrienne Cox as Dorothy and Buster Underhill as Toto. Picture by Sam Taylor

The Wizard of Oz by Horsham Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society, The Capitol, Horsham, Thursday, April 16

With Victor Fleming’s spellbinding 1939 film stuck firmly in everyone’s imaginations, a stage adaptation of The Wizard of Oz presents a unique challenge.

Gus Quintero-Fryatt as Tin Man, Adrienne Cox as Dorothy, Chris Dale as Scarecrow and Kevin Summers as Cowardly Lion. Picture by Sam Taylor

Gus Quintero-Fryatt as Tin Man, Adrienne Cox as Dorothy, Chris Dale as Scarecrow and Kevin Summers as Cowardly Lion. Picture by Sam Taylor

How do you rework a big screen hit for a live audience, with a much smaller budget and strict limitations on the kinds of special effects you can use?

Well, as HAODS demonstrates, you can make up for a lot with an abundance of creativity.

The Wizard of Oz, which tells the well-known story of farm girl Dorothy’s journey through the magical land of Oz, still features a flying house, evil monkeys and a dissolving witch, but tackles all of these events in an amusingly low-tech but surprisingly effective way.

The show manages to capture some of the film’s technicolour splendour too. In Oz, backdrops are brightly painted and the many-hued costumes are often stunning to look at. Even the drab Kansas farm at the beginning boasts a variety of beiges and browns, which gives the scene a pleasant and cosy feel.

Andrew Donovan as the Wicked Witch. Picture by Sam Taylor

Andrew Donovan as the Wicked Witch. Picture by Sam Taylor

The sets and special effects are fun but, really, when it comes to reeling the viewer in, you can’t beat a good performance.

And The Wizard of Oz has plenty of these.

Chris Dale has mastered that cracking, high-pitched American country bumpkin voice and combines it with gangly and unstable movements for his Scarecrow.

Gus Quintero-Fryatt, who also does well with his American twang, limits his movements effectively to portray an upbeat but awkward Tin Man who needs a regular dose of oil.

The Wizard of Oz by Horsham Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society. Picture by Sam Taylor

The Wizard of Oz by Horsham Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society. Picture by Sam Taylor

Kevin Summers’ performance is heavily influenced by Bert Lahr’s take on the snivelling Cowardly Lion, and his lines consistently get a good response from the audience.

Most importantly, Adrienne Cox does a fine job as Dorothy, presenting a winsome heroine who’s amazed, delighted and scared by her strange new surroundings. Her rendition of ‘Over The Rainbow’ is handled very nicely.

It seems a bizarre move to cast a male actor as the show’s villainess. However, Andrew Donovan, a rather tall man with a knack for manipulating his voice, makes a menacing Wicked Witch. He looms over the rest of the characters, swooping into scenes with an ear-piercing cackle to scare the living daylights out of everyone.

So what about the wonderful Wizard of Oz himself? Well, Tim Shepherd manages to tread a fine line between trickster and authority figure as both Professor Marvel and The Wizard. The scene where he gives the heroes their prizes successfully conveys how some leaders are true experts at fobbing people off.

Supporting performances are solid, with Nicola Shaw (Glinda), Jane O’Sullivan (Aunt Em), Howard Collis (Uncle Henry) and the large team of kids and adults singing and dancing enthusiastically.

Cameron Rowell in particular leaves a lasting impression as the overemotional Oz Guard.

The wonderfully well-behaved dog Buster (as Toto) is a delightful addition to the cast too, even if he occasionally ends up looking in the wrong direction.

Overall then, director and choreographer Yvonne Chadwell has offered another crowd-pleaser.

HAODS’ Wizard of Oz is bright and cheerful family fun that’s packed with bouncy musical numbers thanks to Andrew Payne and the band.