Review: Wizard of Oz

Richard Lutz takes to The Yellow Brick Road with nine year old Conor to check out the new Wizard of Oz musical.



Hey, we’re off to see the wizard, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. And Dorothy and Toto the dog and evil flying monkeys and the Cowardly Lion. The whole gang, in fact.Yes, the bigtime musical fable hits the 1,000 seat Birmingham Rep stage.

Director Liam Steel was aware that the 1939 Judy Garland juggernaut cast a long shadow. “How do I begin to re-imagine something that has such distinct images?” he ponders.

Helping me assess this new production is nine year old Conor. So, how did the play match up against the movie that lives on our TV throughout Christmas?

“Well,” said Conor between spoonfuls of Rep chocolate ice cream, “I really liked the movie. But in this play the witch had red hair. But in the movie, the real witch had black hair and a green face and a big hat and that was better. That’s what a witch looks like.”

“Also,”he said, taking a hit of his Pepsi, “the songs were the same as the movie but they did them differently. I liked the way they did them in the film.”

Conor had praise for The Strawman (played by Ed Wade): “When everyone else was dancing, he did it wobbly because he was made of straw. It was funny. Also, I really liked the way Toto pulled the electricplug out so the Wizard puppet, which was huge, disappeared and you saw the small lady (Birmingham actor Lorna Laidlaw as the Wizard) making believe she was scary.”

The production was heavy on special effects. The storm was a tour de force and Conor liked the way Dorothy (a touching performance by Chisara Amor) was whisked into the air. “I saw the harnesses but it was still really good,” Conor added, glad to be up late on a school night. He also gave a thumbs up to the revolving stage, the illuminated yellow brick road and the way that the Kansas farm house blew apart when the storm hit.

Our nine year old stage critic advised that kids under seven would not understand the story if they hadn’t seen the Garland classic. Also, use of giant puppets, though eye catching, could be overpowering in the scary scenes, he thought.

“I liked the songs and the dancing but it was changed the way they did it from the movie. Maybe it was they couldn’t be exactly the same, because of copyright or something.”

Yes, Conor, it could be just that. I’ll have my people talk to your people the next  time  we next hit trouble over copyright or something. 

Wizard of Oz is on until 13th January 2019. Tickets: 0121 236 4455