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Review: Wonderful Wizard of Oz at Newcastle Northern Stage

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Northern Stage Finds Its Christmas Mojo Again

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Newcastle Northern Stage
Until Saturday 2nd January 2016

Dorothy (Tessa Parr) + Wicked Witch (Zoe Lambert)
Photo: Topher McGrillis
By returning to the original 1899 L. Frank Baum’s classic book for its source material, Northern Stage have created a Christmas hit. Forget the sometimes dark and brooding 1939 hit MGM film. Here was new music, and characters that are not afraid to show a lighter, funnier side to their personality. Wrap it up with a bright fairground set and original music and you have a real family treat.

Ensemble wide shot on set - design by Rhys Jarman
Photo: Topher McGrillis
The theatre was full of excited young voices as the lights went down to reveal Greysby – population 15. This was a place that was as grey as the name suggests. The community is upset when bright young Dorothy, played by the lively Tessa Parr, lands with her dog Toto. The twelve year overhears, and misinterprets, a part of a conversation suggesting that she should be sent to an orphanage and decides she doesn’t want to stay. A cyclone comes along, sweeps her up and sends her away.

Zoe Lambert as theWicked Witch of the West
Photo: Topher McGrillis
Meanwhile the Witch Of The East and the Witch Of The West are exchanging some sibling rivalry. The Witch in the East was given lovely magical ruby red shoes by their mum. On the other hand the Witch Of The West smells a bit.

Dorothy and the detritus lands on the Witch Of The East, killing her. The coveted red shoes choose Dorothy and her original trainers vanish. She meets up with a chain gang of Munchkins who suggest she follows the yellow path to sort things out.

Michael Blair as the Cowardly Lion
Photo: Topher McGrillis
The magic then begins as she meets the Scarecrow (Maria Crocker) without brain, the Lion (Michael Blair) that needs courage and Nick Chopper aka the Tin Man (Carl Kennedy) that needs a heart.

Carl Kennedy as the
Tin Man with
Tessa Parr as Dorothy
Photo: Topher McGrillis
Caroline Bird has written a script that is not afraid involve the audience in the story. Under Mark Calvert’s direction, the characters say the most natural things, given the strange scenario that they find themselves in. The show is not afraid to have a laugh with the audience. It is also, and this is important for Christmas, quite a magical show for the young theatre goers.

Ruth Johnson as Queen of the Field Mouses + ensemble
Photo: Topher McGrillis
Tessa Parr is very forthright and delightful when she says what we are all thinking. Ruth Mary Johnson and Edward Christensen add pace and excitement as the Queen of the Field Mouses and Officer Cheese Dream. Alice Blundell has her work cut out as she flies in as Glinda one moment as operates the Winkie Slave puppet the next. Alice injects humour into both roles well.

Winkie Slave puppet with 
Wicked Witch (Zoe Lambert)
Photo: Topher McGrillis
The ensemble work well together and it is a real team effort. However, Zoe Lambert as The Wicked Witch has great lines to deliver and Zoe clearly enjoys the role. Very different to the film, Zoe adds a comedic edge to the role which helps to lift the story.

The set is interesting as it resembles a circus on a fairground at times. Rhys Jarman has designed a set that can act as an extra character.

Original live music is
by Jeremy Bradfield
Photo: Topher McGrillis
The original music was composed and enthusiastically performed by Jeremy Bradfield. Tom Walton’s puppets also add a fresh dimension to a well-trodden story.

The danger with a story, made popular in a film, like this is that the audience feel that they know what’s coming. By going back to the original book and moving away from the film score, Northern Stage have created a fresh and fabulous play.

The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz is bold, without being alienating. It is funny without being crass or vulgar. In short, it is a delightful engaging family show that is worth seeking out.    

Tessa Parr as Dorothy + Alice Blundell as Glinda
Photo: Topher McGrillis
This review was written by Stephen Oliver for the North East Theatre Guide from Jowheretogo PR ( Follow Jo on twitter @jowheretogo, Stephen @panic_c_button or like Jowheretogo on Facebook


The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Saturday 28th November 2015Saturday 2nd January 2016, see website for performance schedule
£24, £19.50, £14.50. Student / Under 21, £12. Family tickets £60
Booking: call the box office on 0191 230 5151. 

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