Fringe Box



Review: The Wizard of Oz – Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Published on: 30 Jun, 2017
Updated on: 30 Jun, 2017

By Ferenc Hepp

The Yvonne Arnaud Theatre’s very own Youth Theatre take to the main stage this week with their production of the L. Frank Baum classic, The Wizard of Oz.

Originally titled The Wonderful Wizard of Oz it was first published as a children’s novel in 1900 in Chicago, opened as a Broadway musical in 1902 and received its famous musical film adaptation in 1939.

It has been adapted onto the stage and translated into numerous languages many times since and tells the adventures of Dorothy from Kansas who gets swept away in a cyclone along with her dog, Toto, to end up in the magical Land of Oz where she meets a scarecrow who needs a brain, a tin man who needs a heart and a lion who needs courage.

The YAT’s Youth Theatre provide the cast of The Wizard of Oz (click to enlarge)

I don’t think I was the only one thinking at the start; is Toto going to be played by a real cute dog or is he going to be a puppet? We were not disappointed as the absolutely adorable and very real Lulu starred in the role in the Kansas scenes, and was very well behaved on press night. I wonder how many dogs auditioned for the part?

Alannah Winn-Taylor takes on the role of Dorothy with confidence, charm and a pleasant singing voice which we first hear as she sings the famous Somewhere Over The Rainbow.

The American accents do wander a bit throughout the globe and occasionally it is not easy to understand as a result, perhaps they should not have been attempted. But however, these are youngsters taking on new challenges so it is easy to forgive.

The illusion of the ‘journey’ of the house from Kansas to Oz in the hurricane is handled well by the cast and in fact a lot of the set changes, which are all completed by the children, are executed very smoothly. I have seen more clunky scene changes by professional actors in the past.

In Oz we soon meet the main protagonists. The younger children portray the Munchkins and they work very well as a group, keeping in character throughout the scenes, whether they are positioned at the front or towards the back.

I particularly liked the physical jelly-legged characteristics of the Scarecrow played by Ted Hayes, the bumbling and ineffective guard which was portrayed with a good sense of humour by Callum McClure.

Generally the sense of group work, enjoyment and fun shown by every single cast member I looked at who were involved as part of the ensemble. The lighting is effective throughout with a good contrast between Kansas and Oz, and the Yellow Brick Road works well which is achieved by a clever design by Sarah Sage.

There is always something interesting to look at as part of the set design by Daniel Gent and the live orchestra is expertly led by the Youth Theatre’s regular musical director, David Perkins.

However, a very special mention must be given to the two directors, Lucy Betts and Julia Black. It cannot be easy leading such a huge cast (not to mention the dog) and in their words: “It is the unfaltering teamwork of the entire company that has made it all possible.” This came across very clearly on Thursday evening.

The Wizard of Oz runs only until tomorrow, Saturday July 1. Tickets are available via the website: or by calling the box office on: 01483 440000.

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