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The Wizard of Oz is a charming show, with plenty of different characters and moods.  This was a visually exciting and technically brilliant production, for first time Directors Lynda Fagan assisted by Jackie Houghton.

Because there were two Dorothy’s I went to a second performance so that I could see them both, they and the rest of cast did justice to the piece.

The set design from Gary Nash was ace – the use of runners to get screens on and off worked really well, so the production ran seamlessly – beautifully painted, imaginative and colourful, I loved it.  Debs Cheshire also had a big input on the artistic side helping to create the scenic moods.

I loved the Cupcake House and the bubble cut-out, whilst the trees in the forest and the three young ladies tree costumes were excellent.  

The storm video projection was also extremely real looking – I thought it was really well-achieved.

The standard of Dave Houghton’s lighting was as usual the best, some delightful effects and also the projections for the storm created a very eerie feel – which drew you into the production.  Such imaginative and creative work.  I particularly loved the lighting after the No Place Like Home scene, with good musical accompaniment.

Musically Charlotte Tabert helped the cast get lovely expression into their numbers, and some great harmonies.  It was lovely to see younger people in the band, mingling with the more experienced musicians, but definitely holding their own,  overall creating a good sound that added mood where required, and accompanied the singers well.  I loved the accompaniment to the storm too.  Sound and sound balance were excellent from Duncan Askew.

In the main I thought the costumes echoed the whole feel of the production, being colourful and bold.  The Poppy scene had super lighting effects, I just felt the snow would have been better left as a lighting effect and not peopled.  

The Emerald City costumes were good - the Munchkins were colourful, but looked a little too diverse, it needed something to pull them together. The principal’s costumes were all very good, and looked fresh and clean.

The cast was headed by Abi Houghton as Dorothy, and we also saw her understudy Alice Hayden.  Abi gave us a very spirited Dorothy, this young lady really made her mark, and is very proficient in all aspects of performance – I loved her complete portrayal.  Abi showed awareness of the other performers, it was interesting to see the way the other performers reacted to the different Dorothy’s, giving the production a whole different vibe.

I must mention Hamish, who played Toto – I don’t think I’ve seen a better amateur animal input to a show!

I felt Alice was a little tentative at the outset, but as she grew in confidence everything slotted into place and was musically good.  

It must be very daunting for a young person to sing ‘Over the Rainbow’ so early in the production, but I thought both Abi and Alice sang well.  

Matt Collins, Luke Murphy and Nico Bamford managed to get the link between the farmhands and the Lion, Tin Man and Scarecrow very well.

Matt Collins created an eminently huggable Lion – he sang his number well and gave us plenty of expression.  His portrayal was good, and I so felt for him and wanted to give him courage.

Nico Bamford was a really good Scarecrow – he managed the impression of nothing much except hay holding him up very well – especially when he was throwing himself around the stage with seemingly no bones in his legs!! His delight at receiving his diploma was great.

Luke Murphy completed the trio as the Tin Man – he got the stiffness required for a man made of tin, and moved very well within the confines of the requirement.  Again I thought it was a very good portrayal, and felt so proud when he received his heart – a lovely moment.

I thought these three had a very good relationship with Dorothy, and put over their musical numbers well.

Paul Rogers and Debs Cheshire created a good pairing as Uncle Henry and Aunt Em – both really got into their characters, and I loved the way they changed from rather strict and strait-laced at the beginning to their joy at seeing Dorothy again.

Tim Hayden always creates interest within his portrayals, and this was no exception.  The wily old professor and the Wizard, both fun parts that he obviously enjoyed, whilst interacting well with his fellow performers.

Rosalind White had a difficult job as the Witch, although I liked her better as Miss Gultch – the latter was easy to play for her, being feisty and grumpy.

The ensemble worked really well together, and there were some interesting movements, I thought the Jitterbug number was really charming, and the younger members were lovely – so confident and lots of smiles.  I was pleased to be able to see both teams, and was very impressed with the two smallest cast members, they both knew exactly what they were doing, and were very confident – well done!

I loved the Monkeys – they created a really fun feel to the scene.

I liked Carl Connelly’s rendition of the Mayor, a small part but nicely done – plenty of expression, a real character, he also showed that he could move well in the musical numbers.

So, in summary – I thought it was an excellent technical production, with some very good performances from an experienced cast.  Congratulations to everyone involved.


review date: 30th May & 6th June 2015

Luton Library theatre

Directors: Lynda Fagan & Jackie Houghton

MD: Charlotte Tabert  Choreographer: Jackie Houghton