Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

oz head

Glinda and The Wicked Witch

So witch is witch? Tori Wakeman as Glinda and Hannah Tolley as The Wicked Witch

The Wizard of Oz

The Nonentities

The Rose Theatre, Kidderminster


THE Wizard of Oz is the greatest English language fairy story of the 20th century, and the best ever to come out of America.

Its appeal is pan-generational, with those who enjoyed it as children now sharing the magic with grandchildren, and great grandchildren.

Written by Frank Baum in 1900, it is best known for the 1939 film production. Musical purists will claim that it is a story with songs rather than a musical, with some justification. At its core it is a morality tale about self- worth. Director Jen Eglinton opts for a faithful retelling of the film which we all know and love.

This was my first visit to the Rose Theatre. I could not help but be impressed by the modern, comfortable, and spacious surroundings, as well as the warm welcome.

The Nonentities set themselves quite a challenge in tackling this show, with its numerous technical features and multiple set changes, as well as multiple characters requiring lots of costume changes.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is artistic. The very first song is one of the greatest standards, Over the Rainbow, sung solo with no ensemble overture preamble, just keyboard accompaniment. Jessica Schneider (Dorothy) rises to the task well. Harold ArdDorothy and Totoen’s melody is beautiful, the lyrics, by Yip Harburg (who also wrote them for Springtime in Paris and Brother Can You Spare a Dime) are sublime.

Its themes are of innocence and experience, dream and disillusion. When sung by a child it tells of innocence, by a young woman it is hopeful, by an older person it is a melancholic lament. A huge challenge for any singer for whom the ghost of a young and old Judy Garland stalks any performance. Jessica pitches it as a song of innocence, shouldering the responsibility of the opening number with calm authority.

Jessica Schneider as Dorothy

Before the storm hits Aunt Em’s farm in Kansas, the first set of characters are introduced from whom Joe Harper stands out, first as Hickory, then as the Scarecrow, whilst also producing the video footage of the storm in between.

Harper is the energy which drives the show forwards, funny, charismatic, and with thoughtful characterisation, whether he is front of stage stealing the limelight, or supporting from the chorus. The scarecrow’s sidekicks are an energetic Bob Graham as the Lion, and a far from creaky Andy Bingham as the Tin Man.

The multiple sets are simple but effective with stage manager Hilary Thompson expertly marshalling the many set changes as Toto entertained the audience first snuggling up to Dorothy and then, with good judgement, biting Miss Gulch who doubles as the Wicked Witch, played with a twinkle in her evil eye by Hannah Tolley, who revelled in her anti-hero persona. Richard Taylor entertains as Prof Marvel whilst playing sympathetically the bombastic Oz.

Tori Wakeman was suitably mumsy as Aunt Em, coming into her own as the Good Witch Glinda which gave her the opportunity to show off her fine soprano voice. Music was provided by Musical Director Keith Rowland who had the formidable task of fleshing out the sound for some big numbers with just a keyboard, working non-stop throughout the show. The stand out ensemble set piece arrived when the cast arrived in the Emerald City, richly costumed, and presented with brio and enthusiasm, it was the point at which the evening took off.

The opening night audience warmly acknowledged the cast’s efforts for the curtain call, efforts which grew in confidence as the evening unfolded. Jen Eglinton has produced a show which is faithful to its antecedents for aficionados of the story and fun for the youngsters who are seeing and feeling the magic for the first time. It runs till Saturday 5th December.

Gary Longden


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