The Wizard of Oz review at Pitlochry Festival Theatre – ‘a nostalgia-soaked staging’
There’s little that’s seasonal about The Wizard of Oz aside from the fond memories of anyone who has grown used to watching Victor Fleming’s 1939 film on television over the years. Yet it remains a popular pre-Christmas show – Birmingham Repertory Theatre is also staging a version this year.
Gemma Fairlie’s production is a faithfully staged recreation of the film itself, with Arlen and Harburg’s songs and Herbert Stothart’s score played throughout by MD Dougie Flower’s 10-piece live band. The musicians bring a sense of energy which serves to enhance rather than counteract the otherworldly wonder of the music.
The performances from the ensemble cast are pure MGM: Rachel Flynn as a wide-eyed Dorothy, Daniel Bailey a bandy-legged Scarecrow, Marc Akinfolaran a Cowardly Lion of physical power undercut by giggling timidity, and Will Knights miming perfectly a creaking, rusty Tin Man.
The division between Dorothy’s real world and the fantasy of Oz is well-realised, with a simple, bleached-out background counteracting the riot of colour amid Hannah Wolfe’s outstanding set and costume design, from the baby blues of Munchkinland (the Munchkins themselves are played by a well-drilled young company), the bright racetrack swirl of the Yellow Brick Road, looping the stage and spinning off into the distance, and grizzled but kindly Wizard Crawford Logan’s Oz of green light and shimmering taffeta. Toto is a puppet dog in Oz, a real one back in Kansas.
There’s an undoubted sense of nostalgia here, but once again the quality of Pitlochry’s staging shines through, most memorably in the dazzling, acrobatic choreography of the Flying Monkey troupe. This is large scale musical theatre carried off with style on a local theatre budget.