The Wizard Of Oz
|Date||18th January 2022|
|Society||Macclesfield Majestic Theatre Group|
|Venue||MADS Little Theatre|
|Type of Production||Pantomime|
|Musical Director||Richard Tadman|
Author: Kevin Proctor
It’s becoming more and more common for titles that aren’t traditionally pantomimes to be injected with the festive ‘thigh-slap’ treatment. Being the dubious cynic that I am - someone who is sticking to his guns and refusing to embrace ‘Peter Pan’ and ‘Alice In Wonderland’ as pantomimes - it’d be no surprise that I attended this ‘Wizard Of Oz : There’s no place like home panto’ with one eye squinted. Those who know me or who have merely read any review I’ve written for a panto before will know how much I cherish this artform and it’s common, when anyone has such sentiment towards something, for them to be shielding and precious with strong opinions for or against how it’s presented! Let me state from the off that this production was outstanding. This adaptation of the classic novel come MGM kingpin and respected stage musical worked tremendously well as an adventure pantomime, first and foremost thanks to the excellent script by Alex Jackson, what a find! Did it matter that there wasn’t a boy meets girl love story at its core? No! Did we miss having a princess or ambitious hero as the central character? No! Was it still a panto without either of those traits? Absolutely!
Amateur pantos throughout the nation (and further afield) are dominated by Alan P Frayn scripts with Tom Whalley quickly catching up as the modern favourite but Alex Jackson is the new kid on the block and I’m intrigued to see more of his versions grace the stage, VERY exciting indeed!
Innovative and modern script – tick! Now to the song choices… each one was a nostalgic blast from the past but more importantly, worked SO well to compliment the story. The Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion gave us a Backstreet Boys anthem – or was it Five? – I don’t really care which it was, it’s not important, what matters is how it brought the house down and was pure joy, the entire audience was cheering and rooting for them whilst laughing (tears streaming down our faces) wholly invested in what was being presented to us. I adored it! The best one yet!
Aunt Em is reworked as the Dame role and is also whisked off to Oz with Dorothy and Toto. Michael Daws gave us the energy and vivacity we expect from his Dame but there were a couple of moments where he ventured off script which gave a bit of a loose canon impression, when sticking to what’s rehearsed and what’s written, he’s truly excellent at his craft but nerves and tension quickly bubble to my surface with the inappropriate and awkward throw away comments when venturing off script. The urge to adlib is evidently strong for Mike but control it, please!! It’s for the best! This is said with absolute love and respect as Mike is pure magic 90% of the time when playing Dame, he invests and ‘gives’ so much to it, an absolute asset. Carolyn Farrish-Mayer was a gorgeous and sassy Glinda, terrifically interpreted!
In the central role as Dorothy, Morgan Wild was endearing and had a virtuous stage presence. Was her performance perfect – no, but we got the sweet and likeable delivery while ensuring we believed her and we were undeniably on her side which forgives anything. Morgan had a tough job and she fought it head on, she gave her all and we were with her the entire way.
In a role as we’ve never seen him before, Alex Bingle was the ultimate villain as the Wicked Witch, hilarious and relishing – splendid!
MMTG are SO fortunate to have people who literally take hold of a project with both hands and instil their entire being into their duty, it’s priceless and it’s clear that Sara Hawley has passion for producing running through her veins. It shines through the performance and it’s pure magic. Same goes for Olivia Riseley as choreographer, her routines were impressive and had clearly pushed and drilled her dancers to ensure they gave their very best and evidently enjoy themselves while doing it, what more can one ask!? Sara and Olivia make a wonderful partnership. Richard Tadman and his four piece band were the finest sounding panto quartet I’ve heard at an MMTG panto, the balance between all players was the best it’s been, great work here!
This madcap journey down the yellow brick road was the perfect tonic for climbing out of uncertain times. We left with a fuzzy warmth. This production was filled to the brim with brains, courage and heart! Brilliant!