Review: The Wizard of Oz

The impeccable choreography, stunning costumes and spectacular visual effects transform this classic story into a stellar production.

Review: The Wizard of Oz
Photo credit: Jeff Busby for The Wizard of Oz

When a larger-than-life Toto bounded onstage, a ripple of excitement passed through the audience and the mood shifted — we knew we were in for a stellar production. And The Wizard of Oz, with new songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, didn’t disappoint.

To be honest, with a cast featuring Anthony Warlow as Professor Marvel and the Wizard, Lucy Durack as Glinda and Jemma Rix as the Wicked Witch of the West — roles Durack and Rix reprise from Wicked — we came in with already-high expectations.

The scene opens in sepia-toned Kansas, where Dorothy’s uncle and aunt are securing their farm from the coming storm. Then follows the story that we all know and love: Dorothy runs away from home, is whisked away to the magical land of Oz via a tornado and meets the inhabitants, misfits and villains who occupy the land.

There are updates to the script that nudge this show away from predictability and inject more humour — when the Lion calls himself a ‘friend of Dorothy’ there’s an eruption of laughter from the (adult) members of the audience. Likewise, Durack adds a touch of sass to Glinda’s otherwise sugar-sweet role and Rix’s Wicked Witch of the West is magnificently wicked, cackley and yet, somehow, slightly seductive.

Relative newcomer Samatha Dodemaide takes on the starring role of Dorothy with enthusiasm and energy. Her performance is spot-on, capturing Dorothy’s sweetness and courage through her acting and singing.

What makes this production a standout is its impeccable choreography, stunning costumes and spectacular visual effects. The tornado scene and the flying monkeys are video projections that are equal parts dizzying and mesmerising. The munchkins’ song and dance number is a delight, as are the multi-layered technicolour sets and lighting. And the ingenious costumes, from Glinda’s puffy, glittering dress to the Scarecrow’s floppy, patchwork outfit, to the monkeys’ wizened faces and webbed wings and the Wicked Witch’s feathery gown, emphasise their unique characteristics.

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s additional songs blend seamlessly into the plot, adding some depth and motivation to the original. Standouts were the Wicked Witch’s gritty ‘Red Shoe Blues’, the Wizard’s booming ‘Bring Me a Broomstick’ and the poignant ‘Already Home’, led by Durack.

The Wizard of Oz is a heartwarming production that will blow you away, into the Land of Oz, and leave you humming the tunes as you step out of the theatre hours later.

Access tickets from $59.90 to The Wizard of Oz – now playing in Melbourne for a strictly limited season.