by James Barry.

Theatre Royal Jewry Street To 3 January 2010.
Runs 2hr One interval.

TICKETS: 01962 840440.
Review Mark Courtice 18 December.

A bracing makeover of family favourite.
Long out of copyright, Frank Baum’s novel is fair game for new adaptations. At Winchester’s Theatre Royal James Barry’s version has all the fun of a panto, so a story that can be a byword for sentimentality is given a bracing makeover.

The script tells the story plainly but clearly and has some good jokes, which are actually funny, while the familiar characters are delivered by an excellent cast. Baum’s morality tale still has morals, and the ending is made happier by the good nature of the telling.

Simon Slater’s music is clever, tuneful and contemporary, and although being unsympathetically amplified, is sung well. It would help to have live music, and the production doesn’t feel that it has a huge budget behind it, but there’s ingenuity and some clever ideas to make up for this.

The performers are all adept at working with the audience. Jack Cassidy is a cheerful and instantly attractive Scarecrow, friendly and fun. Julian Eardley plays the Cowardly Lion as a pantomime dame without the frocks. Large and camp, his roars genuinely provoke delighted giggles from a young audience, who are on his side from then on. As The Wicked Witch of the West Kali Hughes is terrific; green and evil, but with irony so we sort of like her too. We boo and hiss, but she also elicits "aahs" for her disgracefully self-inflicted peril as she is chased by “that girl dressed in a tablecloth”.

Deft touches like the King of the Munchkins being a (very funny) Eric Morecambe, the use of video for the tornado, the assured contribution of local children – charming in neat and effective choreography – and the clever integration of the panto staples, are all signs of a self confident team making a lively good time for all the family.

Barry’s own production is well-organised with a deft sense of timing so things move on at a good pace, but there is time for all the panto silliness. Despite occasional evidence of the lack of resources, the design neatly reflects the capable whole.

Dorothy Gale: Serena Giacomini.
Uncle Henry/Cowardly Lion: Julian Eardley.
Eric, King of the Munchkins/Gatekeeper: Clive Flint.
Glinda, Good Witch of the North: Felicity McCormack.
Wicked Witch of the West: Kali Hughes.
The Scarecrow: Jack Cassidy.
Tin Man: Jack Corcoran.
Dancers: Molly Aldridge, Grace Fennelly, Alexandra Hopkins, Kathleen Humphreys, Imogen Irving, Hannah Larden, Beth Luckett, Sophie Ramsden, Abigail Sheppard, Philippa Simpson, Anastasia Titchener, Lisa Chen-Wilson, Eleanor Waite, Ella Wright, Chloe Bonfield, Charlotte Burville, Sophie Davies, Elizabeth Faulkner, Emily Ford, Rosie Golledge, Imogen Guppy, Kirsty Harrison, Minnie Maeso, Joanne Pennefather, Phoebe Revolta, Eleanor Wallis, Abigail Watton, Ashleigh Wilmot.

Directo: James Barry.
Designer/Costume: Rachel Fox.
Composer/Musical Director: Simon Slater.
Choreographer: Sally Stanyard.
Illusionist Neil Kelso.

2009-12-22 10:09:41

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