The WIZARD of OZ

Date 21st November 2019
Society Banbridge Musical Society
Venue IMC Cinema, Banbridge
Type of Production Musical
Director Ian Milford
Musical Director Niall O’Flaherty
Choreographer Nina Dibb

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Author: Sheelagh Hobart

Although successful musicals based on the book, ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ by L.Frank Baum, were created in 1902 for Broadway and in 1939 for the film “The Wizard of Oz”; the most popular is the Royal Shakespeare Company’s adaptation of  the film’s screenplay, which was produced for London’s Barbican Centre in 1987. This version, however, presents problems for amateur theatre as there are 27 scenes in total!!

The stage of the IMC cinema is large and, although there are flying facilities, most of BMS’s set did not fly. It was rather heavy and difficult to move, which slowed the pace considerably. There was an added apron to the front of the stage which incorporated the yellow brick road but really served no other useful purpose and sometimes left the stage behind a bit empty in full company scenes. The opening Munchkinland scene was bright and colourful but the rest was rather lacking in colour. Of course, the Kansas prairie and the twister need to be dull or black & white, but I would have liked much more colour in Oz. Lighting could have made a difference if the back cyc had been lit as sunshine and the dull side flats turned or brightly lit for Oz. There were no lighting effects for the Twister apart from projections, which was a pity, but I did like the Yellow brick road being gobo-ed onto the stage as that meant it could disappear when not needed. Sound effects were well timed and good all through the show. Costumes were a bit hit and miss – but I do know that this company is under financial pressure and Costumiers add expense. The children’s flower hats were lovely but the great variety of greens in the Emerald City was disappointing.

In this show I do love the doubling up of characters and how actors can hint at their alter ego! Rosemary Kelly played Aunt Em and Glinda, the good fairy. She brought a gentle motherly aspect to both roles and was an excellent foil to

The Wicked Witch of the West. Played by Nicola Brenchley with the unpleasant Miss Gulch as her alter ego, her 

nasty persona was maintained throughout. The wicked witch’s ‘fire ball’ soon after she first appeared was effective – I would have loved to see it employed again in the witch’s chamber when she threatened to set fire to the Scarecrow.

Uncle Henry and the Emerald City Guard were both played convincingly by David McClelland and likewise Professor Marvel and the Wizard by Brendan Magee. The latter was just as one would picture the slightly bungling old men.

Chorus and small parts as Crows, Trees, Monkeys, Poppies and Winkies were all well covered - the dance of Poppies and Snowflakes was most effective. Of course, the group of children always brings the “ah” factor (Group 2 Munchkins the night I attended) and those who played the Munchkin Mayor (Michael McAteer), Barrister (Alex King), Coroner (Tara Lernnon), Lullaby League  and Lollipop Guild all performed delightfully……and if some little ones didn’t quite get the steps right it was all the more engaging!

Three main protagonists – Hunk/Scarecrow (Calum Moore), Hickory/Tinman (Colin O’Brien) and Zeke/Cowardly Lion (Ruairi McAlinden) were well cast and likeable. As Scarecrow, Calum started well with wobbly uncoordinated limbs - I would have loved him to continue showing that problem throughout the piece. As Tinman, Colm was suitably stiff, and I liked his cylindrical body which he could move upwards to hide inside! Lion’s big floppy costume added greatly to his character and Ruairi brought lots of comedy to his role which helped onstage rapport between the three. Dialogue between these three was sometimes a little slow but this was just the company’s second performance – I’m sure the pace increased with every performance. It was clever that only costumes were changed by these three for the final scene back in Kansas. Faces (still made up) were turned away from the audience so that Calum, Colm and Ruairi could almost immediately take their bows as Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion in the Finale.

Everyone on stage worked hard especially Aimee McVeigh as Dorothy who sang her iconic“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” beautifully. She coped with the little dog playing Toto (who also behaved impeccably) extremely well.  I loved the way she surreptitiously transferred the dog lead from one hand to another whenever Dorothy did a twirl! Aimee related very well to her fellow actors and undertook her huge role with confidence, energy and professionalism.

When the Orchestra struck up the first notes I thought “Oh dear!” but they soon warmed to the task although tempo was sometimes a little slow. Choreography was sensibly simple to include the variety of dancing ability on stage and gymnastics were employed where suitable. Direction by Ian Milford was hampered by the clumsy set and occasional slow music, but he teased comedy out wherever he could and I’m sure the pace increased as the ‘Wizard of Oz’ run progressed.

I am so glad to see Banbridge Musical Society carrying on and hope they continue to move from strength to strength.

My thanks to all who were involved in any way for the entertaining evening shared with a happy audie