The Wizard of Oz, London Palladium, 2023
Photo: Marc BrennerGeorgia Onuorah (Dorothy)
  • Theatre, Musicals
  • Recommended

Review

The Wizard of Oz

3 out of 5 stars

Dazzlingly bright revival for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage spin on the classic movie

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Time Out says

Crashlanding onto the stage of London's Palladium, this high-octane 'Wizard of Oz' promises to obliterate the wicked witch of school holiday boredom, banishing her memory in an all-consuming explosion of video projections, perky songs and old-fashioned sap. It's certainly not subtle. But kids will complain that TikTok feels too slow after a few hours in its exhilarating company.

Director Nikolai Foster's production started out at Leicester Curve theatre last year: now, it's hitting the West End with a souped-up cast designed to wring some humour from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jeremy Sams's overly sincere book. Now, comedian Jason Manford is playing the Cowardly Lion, but the book is light on jokes for this star to milk, so when Manford incongruously announces that 'I'm a friend of Dorothy', it brings the house down. In a less successful bit of star casting, reality telly personality and dance troupe Diversity's choreographer Ashley Banjo pops up as the Tin Man. His singing skills are somewhat rusty, so it's a relief when he breaks into a 'Hamilton'-style musical theatre rap.

The standout performances here are the most vocally accomplished. As Dorothy, Georgina Onuorah delivers a subtle, rich 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow,' its wistful tone a welcome contrast with the score's bombastic newer songs. And Christina Bianco is an enchanting good fairy Glinda, whizzing about on a Barbie-pink Vespa and bringing spine-tingling operatic flourishes to her role.

Their performances insert some much-needed heart into Nikolai Foster's bells-and-whistles-filled production. Douglas O'Connell's stage-filling video projections are half old-school Hollywood, half dopamine-spiking video game, offering welcome flourishes of offbeat humour along the way (the Scarecrow is found in a field of canned corn, the field of poppies becomes a luxurious opium den). And Rachael Canning's costumes and puppets are worthy of their own bow, from the haunting winged monkeys to the melting-eyed cuteness of Dorothy's dog Toto.

This is a 'Wizard of Oz' with all possible fantastical trappings. But after an evening in this headache-inducingly loud and bright fantasy, you may well be wishing you were home, along with Dorothy. 

Details

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Price:
£20-£165. Runs 2hr 20min
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