Before this latest edition of The Wizard of Oz went into production geniuses of the theatre Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice were recruited to give the production a 21st century make-over.
Webber and Rice created five new songs for the show – ‘The Wonders of the World’ by Professor Marvel, ‘Red Shoes Blues’ for the Wicked Witch of the West, ‘ ‘Bring Me The Broomstick’ and ‘Farewell to Oz’ for the Wizard and ‘Nobody Understands Me’ for Dorothy.
Webber had been thinking up the upgrade since 2010 when he commented that The Wizard of Oz didn’t work for the theatre because the holes that were filled visually in the movie fell flat in a live performance. For Webber and Rice to fix The Wizard of Oz was simply a matter of filling the holes … and they do almost fit, but not comfortably.
The original soundtrack by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg has its own pace and style. So does Webber and Rice and they aren’t the same style. When the Webber and Rice songs are showcased, the show sounds different. Webber and Rice write more dramatic and slower music. Arlen and Harburg built their original score around Hollywood pizazz. Going from the zippy older style to the slower modern style felt like a roadblock on a highway at times that would clear for a while and let you speed up again.
The Australian production features theatre royalty with Anthony Warlow was Professor Marvel and The Wizard, Lucy Durack as Glinda and Jemma Rix as The Wicked Witch of the West and Miss Gulch.
Samantha Dodemaide steps up to the starring role of Dorothy after working in shows like Singing In The rain, Anything Goes, King Kong and A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. She has also worked in the alt-Wizard theatre production of Wicked.
Lucy was also primed for The Wizard of Oz after playing Glinda in the original Australian production of Wicked.
This production of The Wizard of Oz is a giant leap forward for visuals and technology. To create the tornado and the storm the producers effortlessly use set changes to superimpose three dimensional visuals using lightening, screens and video to distract the audience while a whole new scene is assembled in the background. The effects are stunning and keep the plot running.
The Wizard of Oz will play for a limited season at the Regent Theatre in Melbourne through until July 22, 2018.