The Wizard of Oz, Birmingham Rep, 4****: Rod Dungate


The Wizard of Oz, by L Frank Baum, Music and Lyrics by Harold Arlen and E Y Harburg


Birmingham Rep Theatre: The House

Runs: 2h 45m, one interval, till 13 January 2019

Bham Rep BO: 0121 236 4455

Review: Rod Dungate, 30 November 2018


Much to delight in

Visitors to Birmingham Rep wishing to follow the yellow brick road to Oz are in for a stunning visual and theatrical treat. Strong acting, a brushed-up and polished script with freshened up score, and extraordinary staging ensure audiences, young and old, will be gripped from start to finish. There is always a danger with favourites such as Oz that we go and see it to be warmly hugged by the well-known; but this production really does look and feel very different, without losing touch with the original. There are a couple of elements that seem to me not to work well, but these do not detract from the fabulous whole.

Chisara Agor creates Dorothy. There’s a genuine sense of feisty adventure about her which works well. She has a rich singing voice and Over the Rainbow, the opening song, gently draws us into her mind. This is a Dorothy we are more than happy to follow.

Ed Wade’s Scarecrow is fabulous. Wade plays with consummate physical skill – and his concentration never wavers. He is thus, ever, endearingly vulnerable and his wit makes us care for him even more. We should also note Lorna Laidlaw. Her fortune-telling Professor is a comedic delight. And the Wizard’s final scene, in which diplomas, medals and other gifts are handed out, is saved from the danger of sentimentality by Laidlaw’s simple and impressive sincerity – and thus becomes one of the show’s great moments. This is definitely the scene in which handkerchiefs come out.

Jos Vantyler’s Wicked Witch is less successful. While the loud piercing voice is effective up to a point, the character lacks a wickedness growing from within. We never feel, therefore, the characters are truly under threat and a level of the show is missing.

The score as a whole has a marvellous modern feel while remaining entirely true to the original. At the moment, though, the band (wonderful playing) is mixed too far forward so clarity and impact of much vocal work is muddied.

Settings by Angela Davies are miraculous. In her scenography she has perfectly grasped the ephemeral quality of dream. A series of moving light-arches and gauzes suggest that if you touched this world it would disappear in your hand; wonderful.

A very great deal to enjoy.

The Lion: Kelly Agbowu

Dorothy: Chisara Agor

Ensemble: Rhys Batten

Ensemblee: Jade Davies

Ensemble: Luke Raser Yates

Auntie Em: Shanay Holmes

Professor Marvel / The Wizard of Oz: Lorna Laidlaw

Ensemble / Dance Captain: Zak Nemorin

Ensemble: Kerry Norville

Hickory / Tin Man: Dillon Soctt-Lewis

Ensemble: Elisha Sherman

Ensemble: Emily Squibb

Toto / Puppet Captain: Ben Thompson

Wicked Witch of the West: Jos Vantyler

Uncle Henry: Thomas Vernal

Scarecrow: Ed Wade



Director: Liam Steel

Assistant Director: Madeleine Kludje

Designer: Angela Davies

Costume and Puppet Designer: Samuel Wyre

Lighting Designer: Nick Richings

Sound Designer: Paul Groothuis

Music Director / Orchestrator: George Dyer

Illusionist: Ben Hart

Associate Choreographer: Matt Nicholson


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