Wimborne Musical Theatre : Tivoli Theatre, Wimborne : 26 June 2019
“… a production [sic] full of both talent and charm…”
Dorothy’s ruby slippers are tip-tapping across theTivoli stage this week as Wimborne Musical Theatre head in a very differentdirection from the comparative sophistication of their last two shows, SisterAct and 9 to 5. In many ways The Wizard of Oz isthe American parallel to Alice in Wonderland, with its innocent butresourceful young heroine and its surreal, dream-like quality. Like Alice here,it is deeply ingrained in American culture, aided by the classic 1939 filmstarring Judy Garland. There is a touch of pantomime in there, too, and Ialways want to boo and hiss the Wicked Witch of the West as vigorously as Iwould Abanazar or the Ugly Sisters.
Those iconic ruby slippers are on the feet ofHermione Mason, who as Dorothy holds the whole thing together. She makes aconvincing teenager, her American accent is sustained well without compromisingaudibility, and her attachment to the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion is touching.
Her three chums – the Scarecrow (Duncan Sayers),the Tin Man (John Bounds) and the Lion (Lee Neal) – are a strong team. They actexceptionally well off each other and Dorothy, and they are all blessed withfine singing voices. The Wicked Witch is a splendid part, broomstick, greenmake-up and all, and Jemma Cable goes to town with it, striding and cackling togreat effect. There is a very natural performance from Phil Evans as theWizard. Ron Kite and Selina Rumbold play the ‘American Gothic’ couple of UncleHenry and Aunt Em before transforming into the Wizard’s guard and the goodwitch, Glinda, respectively.
Director Duncan Trew makes good use of a constantlychanging set and what seems like an infinite number of backcloths. SuziDeVilliers provides some fairly straightforward but effective choreography –the Jitterbug scene is a highlight – and musical director Jonathan Spratt keepsup the high standard of singing for which this Society is known. The costumes,like the sets, are bought in – who would fancy making a Tin Man costume intheir spare time? – but the lighting effects, so important in this show, appearto be home-grown and head of lighting Luke Baines deserves a shout-out forthem.
The show itself has a couple of challenges foramateur companies to overcome with inevitable limited resources, and I don’tknow the answer to either of them. Toto the dog is played here by Bramble, whoalthough immaculately trained, at times wandered around the stage or pawed atDorothy’s dress while she is singing. This can be distracting and audiencelaughter at the dog’s antics sometimes masked important dialogue. Then there isthe tornado which blows Dorothy from Kansas to Oz; here it is conveyed withsome surging music and vigorous lighting effects, but the crew were visiblewhile busily changing the set.
Those criticisms of the material take nothing awayfrom this production, which is full of both talent and charm.