In a world in which there is so much discord and suffering, there’s a refreshing innocence and simplicity about the story of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ , with its Scarecrow ( David Knight ) in search of brains , its Tin Woodman ( Ben Sunderland ) seeking a heart and its cowardly lion ( Dave Humphrey ) , all led on their adventures by an intrepid Dorothy Gale ( Stephanie Jolly , who has a lovely clear singing voice ) .
You know from the outset that whatever the machinations of the Wicked Witch ( a positively green and cackling Rebecca Halsey ) , all is going to be well in the end .
This homespun show is a vehicle for a large and enthusiastic cast including innumerable munchkins ( I lost count ! ) , the sham wizard ( Barry Tinkler ) and many others, all propelled along by jolly , familiar and reassuring music ( a good , big sound given only Michael Wooldridge and Chaz McLeod in the pit ) . Along the way , there are solidly good turns by Elana Healy as Aunt Em ( doubling as lion-tamer ! ) , a brave piece of solo ballet by Jack Chapman and some pleasing back projections , even if the opening still looked more like Norfolk in winter than America’s mid-west !
It is a good-natured and cheerfully pantomimic piece of seasonal entertainment , so you forgive some of its weaknesses – inevitable inequalities of acting skill in so large a cast , a slightly ‘baggy’ opening to the second half , some bits of “standing around and acting” , which showed up because of the disciplined choreography of the munchkins ….
But what the hell ? We were in a reassuringly homely and home-made world where sincerity of purpose shone through . “ Nothing can be amiss if simpleness and duty attend it” as the Duke says in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ when reproaching the critics of Pyramus & Thisbe , reminding us to dwell always on the many positives and sincere achievements before us . I hadn’t had the easiest of days before I saw this show – and it launched me – as it should – into Christmas …Well done .