Wizard of Oz follows the yellow brick road to Brisbane

Wizard of Oz - QPAC. Photography by Jeff Busby.
Wizard of Oz – QPAC. Photography by Jeff Busby.

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

An excited audience welcomed the Australian premiere of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s production of The Wizard of Oz in Brisbane’s QPAC Lyric Theatre.

Produced by John Frost and Suzanne Jones, this revamped production, first staged at the London Palladium, features with new songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, and two very sassy witches.

It’s always interesting to see how such an iconic production can stand up to today’s spectacular wiz-bangatry that’s expected by the modern audience. It was through the impressive audio-visual projections by Jon Driscoll and Hugh Vanstone’s complementary lighting that blew this production through the ages. The tornado felt like a scene from the movie Twister, and the animated flying monkeys created an army across the stage.

Wizard of Oz. Photography by Jeff Busby.
Wizard of Oz. Photography by Jeff Busby.

Lucy Durack as Glinda the Good Witch and Jemma Rix as The Wicked Witch of the West fit comfortably into their roles, having previously donned the glitter and the green in many a Wicked performance. The additional songs also gave the opportunity to showcase and capitalise on their exceptional vocal chords. The updated script delivered some great one-liners for both witches, offering more comedic and spirited renditions of the iconic characters.

Samantha Dodemaide plays the perfect Dorothy, the naïve yet strong-willed heroine in this coming-of-age story… Judy would be proud.

Samantha Dodemaide as Dorothy. Photography by Jeff Busby.
Samantha Dodemaide as Dorothy. Photography by Jeff Busby.

Joining Dorothy on her epic journey was the Scarecrow (Eli Cooper), the Tin Man (Alex Rathgeber), and the Lion (John Xintavelonis). While Cooper gave the best physical performance, it was Xintavelonis’ charming, huggable, cowardly Lion who was the most endearing.

Anthony Warlow played dual roles of the eccentric but good hearted Wizard and Professor Marvel with aplomb. As expected, his characterisation was lively, filled with joy, and a pleasure to watch.

But the scene stealer (and consummate performer) was Toto, the dog! Running across the stage, held in Dorothy’s arms, and sitting on a hay bale with all the patience and discipline of a trained dancer, Toto was as cute as he was impressive. His sheer presence threatened to upstage Dorothy during her main number, ‘Over the Rainbow’, but despite my wandering eye shifting from Dorothy to the dog, Toto never once broke character.

Photography by Jeff Busby.
Photography by Jeff Busby.

The ensemble gave an energetic performance, both as munchkins and citizens of Emerald City, with superb costumes that added to the wonderful world of Oz.

The set and costume design by Robert Jones, was bold, vibrant, and larger-than-life. The Yellow Brick Road was on an inclined revolve with set pieces pulling in and out throughout their long journey to the Emerald City, and the scary twisted-branch-like forest integrated well with the projected scenes.

Overall, an enjoyable, good-hearted family show which engaged the adults with just enough flavour  to spice up the iconic original and keep the younger crowd enthralled in the spectacle.

The Wizard of Oz will play in Brisbane until December 3 and before travelling to Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.

Bobbi-Lea Dionysius

Bobbi-Lea is AussieTheatre.com's QLD Co-ordinator, writer, reviewer, and reporter. She is also an actor, presenter, and theatre/film producer for Drama Queen Productions in Brisbane. Bobbi-Lea holds a Degree in Music Theatre as well as a Degree in Film & TV, and is currently doing her Masters in Screen Production.

Bobbi-Lea Dionysius

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