Although this timeless classic was written over 100 years ago by L Frank Baum, it wasn’t released as a Hollywood musical until 1939, the same year that the Coliseum was re-named and re-opened.
The theatre’s current artistic director, Kevin Shaw, has chosen not to direct a straightforward homage to the screen version but has opted for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s version, which is played more like pantomime with a chorus from the local dancing school.
Charles Cusick Smith and Phil R Daniels have designed a colourful picture book set, which works most of the time and certainly keeps the backstage crew busy.
The predominately young cast, most of whom play several roles, wear a strange assortment of wigs, with Carol Noakes playing the Wicked Witch as a panto baddie in a glittery frock.
There were some good performances though, particularly from David Ruben as an amazingly athletic Scarecrow, whilst David Broughton Davies was also good as the cowardly Lion and Kieran Buckeridge plays the Tin Man. James Nickerson, as Uncle Henry, also proves a crowd-pleaser in a variety of roles.
Lara Pulver as Dorothy struggles a bit with her puppet dog Toto, which bears more than a passing resemblance to Spit the Dog. Fortunately the wonderful music, in the capable hands of John Morton, saves the day. Although Baum’s homespun philosophy, that there’s no place like home, is sadly lost amidst the additional dance numbers, this show still has some family appeal.