The Wizard of Oz

Date 9th April 2016
Society Uckfield Theatre Guild
Venue Uckfield Community College
Type of Production Musical
Director Emma Creffield
Musical Director William Bullivant
Choreographer Emma Creffield


Author: Lance Milton

Rarely do I get the opportunity to become involved in advance of a production by one of my NODA affiliated groups but on this occasion I was delighted to be able to offer some help and provide some lighting for the UTG production of The Wizard of Oz. With only a couple of weeks to go they found that their regular lighting provider was unable to assist and so when kindly inviting me to review director, Emma Creffield, asked if I knew anyone. As it happens I often provide technical equipment and assistance as a technician for groups I work with and so I offered to assist, met with the team and then helped rig the few lights needed to augment the rig at the college. However I was never going to be needed to plot or run the lights as I quickly discovered a true gem in the sidelines in the form of Scott O'Hara, a young student who had helped on many previous productions but had yet to realise his potential as a LD. What a fantastic job he did using the lights to great effect throughout the production and adding immensely to the atmosphere of the show.

Emma Creffield had done a marvellous job of giving the great technical team a show worth pulling out all the stops for with imaginative staging and direction throughout. There were some particularly inventive and delightful ideas such as the munchkins played by adults sat on wheels [possibly office chairs?] concealed by wide skirts or sat on the wall with little fake legs dangling - these gave us all a good chuckle and the show was full of similar such vibrant and well executed wit. It is no surprise given Emma's experience and training in theatre, but even a great director needs a willing and able cast and team and she was very fortunate to have both.

It was wonderful to enjoy a sixteen piece orchestra in these days of austerity and paring back of musical scores to suit budgets and every one of them delivered a noteworthy rendition of the timeless score under the expert direction of MD William Bullivant.

The choreography too was lovely to watch and while it stretched some it was never too difficult or fussy and added nicely to the overall effect of the show.

As is frequently the case, the leading players in the part of Scarecrow [Robin Creffield], Tin Woodman [Mark Sherlock] and Lion [Spike Mayhew] get the juicy lines and songs but this trio delivered with aplomb in spades, supporting a brilliant leading lady in the form of Kirstie Gladman as Dorothy. Her rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow was stirring and emotive and showed her lovely voice off beautifully.

One could not fail to mention that there was a vast supporting cast who all performed brilliantly in sustenance of the leads and it was lovely to see so many young people thoroughly enjoying the experience and giving their all. What great promise for the future of the group.

This was the MGM version of the show and it was a refreshing treat to see it performed as most groups tend towards the RSC version which follows the film version more closely. However I think, having seen both, that I prefer the MGM even if we do miss out on Toto. Whichever version UTG had decided to do, I feel sure that the drive and passion would have been as evident and would have left us knowing that while there is no place like home, with entertainment this fun, who wants to go home?