In some ways using the Royal Shakespeare Company’s oft-revived 1987 version of The Wizard of Oz, which matches the MGM classic virtually beat-by-beat, seems like a safe option. But while John Kane’s adaptation runs along completely familiar lines for those already acquainted with the movie, it provides a solid framework for this Selladoor production to transport youngsters new to the story to a totally magical place.
In the early Kansas scenes, much of this work is done by 2017 X Factor quarter-finalist Holly Tandy who – despite making her theatre lead debut – commands the stage as Dorothy, imbuing her with an impressively Judy Garland-like mix of vulnerability and pluck.
Cressida Carre’s production takes a while to find its feet, but Tandy’s performance – not to mention a show-stopping performance of Over the Rainbow – gets the audience onboard despite the sluggish start.
Once Dorothy gets to Oz, however, the creative team pull out all the stops, with designer Steve Howell’s rendering of the Emerald City and the Wizard’s booming presence managing to fill even the Winter Gardens’ cavernous stage.
And while some of the other action gets a little dwarfed, musical director Dean McDermott’s marshalling of the seven-piece band helps the film’s much-loved songs and Mark Crossland’s lush arrangements to fill the venue to the rafters.