The Wizard of Oz

The Crucible
- , 2018

Tickets cost £15 - £40

Follow the Yellow Brick Road for this year’s Christmas musical. Our review...

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We’re off to see the wizard for this year’s Christmas musical at the Crucible, with a new production of The Wizard of Oz. The show opens with a sepia-toned scene reminiscent of the 1939 Judy Garland film that many will remember. Aunt Em (Sophia Nomvete), Uncle Henry (Michael Matus), Dorothy (Gabrielle Brookes), and her dog Toto – played by a very obliging real dog in the opening scenes – live on a farm in Kansas. When a tornado hits, Dorothy and Toto are whisked away to magical Munchkinland in the Land of Oz. Their farmhouse lands on and kills The Wicked Witch of the East, much to the delight of the resident Munchkins and the anger of The Wicked Witch of the West.

To find her way home, Dorothy must follow the Yellow Brick Road all the way to the Emerald City to find the Wizard of Oz. On the way, she meets a Scarecrow without a brain, a Tin Man without a heart, and a Cowardly Lion without any courage, who join Dorothy on her journey to find help from the famous wizard.

It’s always a challenge to take on a story with such an iconic history, but several flourishes help make this new production the Crucible’s own. Janet Bird takes advantage of the theatre’s in-the-round format with a circular stage that lifts to reveal a colourful, illuminated Munchkinland underneath. The circular design works perfectly for the Yellow Brick Road, which lights up round and round the stage to show Dorothy the way, and later for The Wicked Witch’s roller-skating monkeys to whizz around threateningly.

Gabrielle Brookes is a confident Dorothy and her performance of the song we all wait for, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, is pure and heartfelt. The Scarecrow (Andrew Langtree) the Tin Man (Max Parker) and the Cowardly Lion (Jonathan Broadbent) are all hilarious and completely lovable as Dorothy’s companions. The comedic kick given to The Wicked Witch (Catrin Aaron) is a welcome addition, as is the charming puppet version of Toto for Munchkinland, designed by Rachael Canning and realised by Rhiannon Wallace as puppeteer. Watch out too for the impressive Jitterbug dance number, with Ewan Jones’s slick choreography delivered by the very polished ensemble cast.

It’s a bold, magical and funny affair for this year’s Crucible Christmas musical and while those original ruby slippers are big shoes to fill, the standing ovation at the end of this show was thoroughly well deserved.