Review: The Wizard of Oz, Leeds Playhouse

This stage adaptation of The Wizard Oz marks the final production in the first season at the newly redeveloped Leeds Playhouse. This bold and stunning tale has been revitalised and brought to life with immense imagination and vigour, and proves to be a spectacular, unmissable Christmas treat.

Lucy Sherman (who shares the role with Agatha Meehan throughout the show’s run) plays the iconic Dorothy Gale, a young girl from Kansas who, transported to the world of Oz after being caught in a tornado, embarks on an exhilarating journey. Simon Higlett’s bold set design is populated at various moments with multicolour props and intricate frameworks, as well as the rusty water tower representing Kansas at the edge of the stage. It makes for a beautiful, agile canvas enabling a swift transformation from a nostalgic town in Kansas to the mystical and technicolour world of Oz. The addition of spectacular aerial artists, and outstanding movement direction, combined with brilliant animation and innovative use of lighting, ensures that the audience are as entranced and absorbed as Dorothy is when she enters the world of Oz.

Alongside the spectacular technical prowess exhibited in this almost three-hour long piece, what makes this production remarkable is the spirited cast, whether that’s the endearing charm of the munchkins, or Angela Wynter’s delightful Aunt Em (who also doubles as Glinda). Lucy Sherman’s vibrant depiction of Dorothy is ultimately the heart of this charming and inspiring production. The decision for Toto to be played by both a real life dog in the world of Kansas, and by a puppet in the world of Oz, is an adorable and unique take on Dorothy’s trusty companion. The music is beautifully woven into the story, and standout moments include an impressively choreographed jitterbug number as well as Sherman’s mesmeric rendition of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’.

Although it would be easy for a stage adaptation of a well known classic tale like The Wizard of Oz to descend into a piece that’s saccharine sweet and predictable, the success of this adaptation comes from the imagination and ambition of the creative team, who have together created a piece that is technically brilliant, but also carries so much heart and joy. Beneath the fantastical backdrop of Oz and all its wonderful characters, music and charm, is a meaningful story about family, friendship, and love for the place one calls home.

The Wizard of Oz is playing the Leeds Playhouse until 25 January. For more information and tickets, visit the Leeds Playhouse website.