For a tale so black and white, the stage has never looked as colourful as it did on this night.
Since its original publication as a novel in 1900, 'The Wizard of Oz' has overseen numerous adaptations on TV, in cinema and on the stage. Though arguably, none has seen quite a transition as this current Andrew Lloyd Webber version.
Conceived in 2010, it remains true to the 1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film, divulging in the adventurous journey of a Kansas girl, Dorothy (Samantha Dodemaide), and her dog Toto, as they're whisked away to a fantasy land of witches, wizards, singing munchkins and flying monkeys in search of a way back home.
Though adapted for the stage, no characters have been removed or altered, nor plot line twisted. Instead, there's a decided notion to delve deeper into the narrative, emotion and characterisation, bringing a more holistic appeal to the beloved fairytale.
As nostalgia would have it, the opening sequence reads much like the movie, delivering us to a farm where we're introduced to Dorothy's Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. And, though colour is inevitable in a real-life setting, the production manages to ascertain the same washed out, humdrum feeling as the movie that started it all.
In true ‘Wizard of Oz’ fashion, it's not until Dorothy and Toto are transported to the land of Oz where colour takes charge of the stage, brimming from edge-to-edge. There's joy in the dances, which are as addictive as they are exuberant, while the characters are as large as life and as close to our hearts as ever.
Samantha Dodemaide commands the stage with innocence and charm. Her voice leads the charge alongside a strong party of friends/actors; Scarecrow (Eli Cooper), Tin Man (Alex Rathgeber) and Lion (John Xintavelonis), as they travel along the Yellow Brick Road in search of the wish-granting wizard. Her voice rings deeply in our hearts and in our ears as she belts out 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow' but there's no moment more touching than when she's trying to return home.
She's not to be outdone however by Lucy Durack or Jemma Rix, who are both reprising their roles from Australian productions of ‘Wicked’ as Glinda the Good and the Wicked Witch of the West , respectively. Durack carries with her a kooky yet good-natured flair coupled with a stunning set of lungs and enviable glitter ball gown while fan-favourite Rix conjures up evil incarnate with no sense of remorse and a twist of hair as high as heaven.
The use of film as a mechanism to overcome more cinematic scenes is exceptionally idealised and executed, though perhaps what's most refreshing of all is that this production makes no attempt to hide or undermine its alterations.
Instead, it prefers to highlight them, reminding us that we're viewing something new and giving a chance for other characters, such as The Wizard, to shine with their own musical numbers.
From the moment our eyes hit the stage with original number 'Nobody Understands Me' as way of introduction to the musical and its characters to the end where the ensemble convenes for 'Already Home/Home Is A Place In Your Heart' to round off the moral of the story, there's an added element of colour that only the stage can bring.
'The Wizard Of Oz - The Musical' DatesFrom 30 December – Capitol Theatre (Sydney)
From 3 April 2018 – Festival Theatre (Adelaide)
From 15 May 2018 – Regent Theatre (Melbourne)