The Wizard of Oz

Date 22nd November 2018
Society Oxted Operatic Society
Venue Oxted Barn Theatre
Type of Production Musical
Director Melanie Vinall
Musical Director Philippa Lucas
Choreographer Zoe Maxwell

Report

Author: Jon Fox

This legendary show and film catapulted the 16 year old Judy Garland into a film and theatre legend.   Ever since, the role of  Dorothy has been a role to "die" for by any talented young actress. Equally, the supporting roles attract fierce competition whenever top amateur companies stage this show. OOS boast a deep and wide age ranging host of performing talent, as the entire principal cast in this production richly confirmed.

Sixteen year old Grace Rumsey shone as Dorothy. Blessed with natural charm, stage presence, natural timing and a more than pleasant voice, her imminent move away from our area will be much regretted by all who watched Grace. The other really young adult was Grzegorz Todryk as Scarecrow - and farm hand Hunk - a charismatic, energetic, likeable and distinctly watchable performer- and how he could move!                      

Steve Bedford was the almost inevitable casting as the cowardly Lion (and Zeke on the farm). It is always a treat to watch Steve on stage, he is a multi-stage rounded performer and never fails to stand out. Another in similar vein is Richard Seagroatt as the Tin Man (and Hickory), a truly strong quartet of "friends".

Nicki Lewis revelled in two corking baddie roles;   the dreadful and cruel Miss Gultch, complete with false nose and chin come to take away Toto, and the even more wicked Witch, whose ultimate watery death, to fearsome shrieks of terror was a show highlight!   Sophie MacTavish as the kindly good witch Glinda - and Aunt Em - was her splendid counterpart.

The smaller roles of Uncle Henry and a Guard in Oz were assuredly handled by Mike Tomlin. The formidable onstage personality of David Morgan was the obvious casting in the title role of the Wizard himself - also playing the Professor - both in his own peerless style. If you have never been to theatre before, but then see for the very first time David onstage and don't then instantly fall in love with the theatre, then trust me, theatre is not for you!

It was entirely natural that all the above players should be upstaged by a dog. In this case it was Toto - played by Scamp - an entirely apt real name as the audience laughter rightly showed.

A host of enthusiastic and loveable folk, mainly children, made for a good ensemble with Munchkins, monkeys, poppies, snow dancers et al. It helped provide a top notch land of Oz.   

As the four friends journeyed through various perils in their joint quest to find the Wizard, the various excellent sets changed seamlessly one to another.   James Vinall, set designer, stage manager Muriel Lister and their able crew played a key part in the magical effects of Oz - with equally good Kansas farm and realistic farmhouse.

In this show, more than many, lighting and sound, plus effects are vitally important.    I was impressed by both the superb lighting design of Carolyn Rowley, with follow spot operators Teresa Chinnock and Angie Muscio. John Chinnock once again did admirably on sound. I thought the "twister" scene truly scary and realistic.

Costumes were top drawer, well fitted, extremely colourful and elevated an already top show even higher. Monica Mickels and Jane Maisey on wardrobe really should take a bow! Hair and makeup were splendidly and innovatively applied - another merit then for Stephanie Hornett Johnson, Becki Wilkes and Natalie Bassett. I cannot stress enough the vital importance of all the dedication, organisation and skills of all the key non-stage performing roles. Top notch, all of them!

I found the directorial overview of the show to be top class, just the right balance of pathos, humour, baddie cruelty and inspirational optimism, especially among the four friends.

Likewise the musical standard was never less than good with some superb singing by several principals. Musical director Philippa Lucas, show director Melanie Vinall and choreographer Zoe Maxwell - with her well rehearsed routines - clearly pushed a talented and enthusiastic company to a limit beyond most companies.   I was not in Oz personally, but I thought the whole evening to be "wizard"!