The Wizard of Oz

Date 27th June 2014
Society Starlight Theatre Productions
Venue Northern Stage, Newcastle
Type of Production Musical
Director Katie Howes (assisted by Eileen Glenton)
Musical Director Liam Gilbert
Choreographer Jenn Rouse


Author: Michael L. Avery

The RSC version of The Wizard of Oz comes direct from the script of the classic 1939 film from the Hollywood Studios of MGM.  Can anyone not have seen the film in the cinema or on television by now?  That familiarity creates difficulties, as audiences arrive at the theatre with very strong preconceptions about what they are going to see.  No problems on that score here.  The audience got exactly what it expected and, perhaps, a little more.  Hannah Elliott played Dorothy with great authority for a young lady who is stilI only 14 years old.  She carried off the song of the show, Over the Rainbow (which comes very early for a show stopping number) with great confidence.  I remember Hannah playing a Princess in The King and I and Wendy in Peter Pan.  She is definitely growing up and improving with every outing.

Apart from Dorothy, Oz must have its Scarecrow, Tinman and Cowardly Lion, and they must live up to expectations, which they did.  All three were comprehensively disguised in their costumes and I didn’t realise Stephen Halliday was playing the Scarecrow until I read the programme!  Alex Easten made his musical theatre debut as the Tinman, and Jonathan Cash proved something I have always said as the Lion.  He is an excellent actor.  All three carried off their parts with considerable aplomb, but it was Jonathan who caught my attention.  He was very funny and had found a deep lion-type speaking voice I didn’t know he possessed.  Congratulations to all three of them.

It is always difficult to play the good fairy.  Anyone who is familiar with pantomime knows the bad fairy has all the best lines and bits of business.  I have to say, however, Stephanie Whitehead really stood out as Glinda.  Apart from having a blindingly silver and white costume she possesses a singing voice which continues to impress me.  Rather like the boys, Melanie King was comprehensively disguised as the Wicked Witch of the West.  I needed to see the programme picture before I realised who she was.  She squeezed every drop of wickedness out of her character and I think she might have been booed in the finale – a sign of job well done.

I attended on Friday evening which means I saw The Emerald Team of Munchkins.  As usual, not many boys amongst them but that’s show biz!  I thought they were a very well-disciplined team, no doubt due to being under the watchful eye of Assistant Director, Eileen Glenton.  I am sure The Yellow Team, which I did not see, were equally disciplined and effective.

I know I have not mentioned everybody in the cast but their efforts were equally appreciated.  The entire company and director, Katie Howes, deserve all the praise they have undoubtedly received.  I must mention one more cast member, Sookie Potts, who stole every scene she (?) was in as Toto.  For the uninitiated (if there are any) that’s Dorothy’s dog.