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Review | The Wizard of Oz | Manchester Palace Theatre | 25/04/2024

Based on L. Frank Baum’s classic children’s novel, The Wizard of Oz is often better known for its 1939 movie musical starring Judy Garland. The show received a bold reinterpretation by Nikolai Foster at Leicester Curve in 2022, and is now touring the length and breadth of the UK.

The stage is dominated by a large projection screen which does a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of scene setting. When we get to Oz the video and images are unmistakably modern and fun. Through this plenty of easter eggs can be enjoyed, from nods to Judy Garland to some hilarious musical theatre references. The screen however felt overly relied on, and more use of set pieces could have helped bring the world of Oz to life.

Aviva Tulley is truly world class in her interpretation of Dorothy, giving goosebumps with her sensational vocals. Her rendition of Over The Rainbow rightfully steals the show, leaving you longing for more. Dorothy is of course accompanied by her trusty dog Toto, played by Abigail Matthews through Rachel Canning’s puppetry design. The Toto puppet moves with so much believability and authenticity, you almost forget that Matthews is there doing the work! JLS frontman Aston Merrygold is superb as the tin man who longs for a heart. He handles Ashley Banjos choreography in ‘If I Only Had A Heart’ with charisma and ease, captivating the audience with both his moves and vocals.

Some characters are played with a more campy pantomime style, which feels slightly confusing. At times the show feels like a carefully revived classic, told through a knowing dystopian lens. At other times it has a much more family orientated panto-esq vibe. Whilst neither of these styles are a bad thing, the show could benefit from making a more solid decision on what it is and commit to this in its direction.

The orchestra were a real highlight, not only bringing the songs from the beloved movie to life but elevating them. All the classics were there, with Harold Arlen’s original music sounding absolutely incredible. Whilst additional material provided by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s doesn’t hit quite as hard, it is helps add a much welcomed new dynamic to the show, giving the music greater variation.

With a mix of childhood nostalgia whilst remaining fresh, The Wizard of Oz is on at Palace Theatre until Sunday 05 May 2023.

Note: My ticket was gifted. Irrespective of whether a show is gifted or bought, I always ensure that my reviews are fair and based on my honest opinion alone.


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