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The Wizard of Oz - Curve Review

(L-R) Ben Thompson (Toto), Jonny Fines (Scarecrow), Georgina Onuorah (Dorothy), Paul French (Tin Man) and Giovanni Spanò. Photo by Marc Brenner

Click your heels three times and wish for a big adventure this Christmas and you'll end up at Curve for their fantastic new adaption of The Wizard of Oz.

The production helmed by Curve's Artistic Director Nikolai Foster delivers a high-tech piece of theatre that modernises Oz into an electric futuristic world. The world is largely brought to life through sets designed by Colin Richmond, projections designed by Douglas O'Connell and Ben Cracknell’s drama filled lighting embosses the world. It all works well for most of it.

The show opens in the traditional sepia way as Dorothy, played by Georgina Onuorah, struggles with those around her and the looming threat of Ms. Gulch wanting to take away her dog Toto, excellently puppeteered by Ben Thompson. She eventually runs away but only after a spellbinding rendition of 'Over The Rainbow' that Onuorah sings so brilliantly. and bumps into Professor Marvel who warns of the impending tornado. In it swoops and off Dorothy and Toto go to Oz.

The twister is excellently staged with the use of the projection and other on-stage effects and sees Dorthy land in a blue Munchkinland. It's undeniable that this world that is so colourful traditionally is lacking a bit of magic but it that is more than made up for by the cast. In swoops the gloriously pink and glamourous Glinda, played by Christina Bianco, arriving on a Vesper.

After dancing away to celebrate the death of the Wicked Witch of the East and the arrival of the far more daunting Wicked Witch of the West, played on press night by understudy Ellie Mitchell. Dorothy and Toto are sent along the Yellow Brick Road to find the Wizard so she can get back home to Kansas. 

The journey along the road is staged with three large arrows coloured with yellow and grey bricks and another giant gold one pointing down saying 'you are here'. The idea is good but it doesn't quite land. The locations along the road are impressive though, particularly Scarecrows scene with excellent crows puppeteered by three of the female ensemble.  

Poppy Motel, where the characters fall under the Witch's spell, sees a looming shadow that resembled Bates Motel from Psycho and the ensemble wearing outlandish red costumes. The next stop is the Emerald City, the entrance is again underpowered by the minimalist set. Though the Emerald City itself is a vast metropolis. There are some great adverts in the city that you should keep an eye out for.

The Wizard's Studio is again a large projection with a big set piece of glasses flying in. Mark Peachey's booming vocals deliver 'Bring Me The Broomstick' with great gusto and take the show into the interval.

The pace doesn't relent in the 45-minute second act as Dorothy and co head to the Witch's HQ, now this is where the design really does work with a huge sign lit up on both sides. It's a looming place that rightly scares the approaching quartet and Toto. A stunning solo 'Red Shoes Blues' is powerfully sung by Mitchell.

Once the gang crash the Witch's lair and fight off the Winkies it's down to defeating the Witch herself. Splashed with water she fades away and once again there's a toe-tapping rendition of 'The Witch is Dead'. With the witch defeated it's back to the grandiose Studio of The Wizard returning with the broomstick as requested. 

Mark Peachey is particularly impressive as he is revealed and talks to The Scarecrow, The Tin Man and The Lion telling them that they already have a brain, a heart and courage respectively. He then promises to take Dorothy back home in his epic balloon spaceship. Unfortunately off he flies whilst Dorothy is gathering Toto and she is left behind.

Beyond the huge spectacle it's the next scene which is the show's best. Bianco's Glinda explains that Dorothy is already home because home is place in your heart in a gorgeous number 'Already Home', one of the new songs like 'Red Shoes Blues' written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice that were added for the 2011 London Palladium production. It's a moving number and leads to Dorothy's goodbyes as she clicks her ruby slippers and ends up back in Kansas wrapping up the story and the production.

The cast of The Wizard of Oz. Photo by Marc Brenner

The West End worthy company are outstanding across the board. Onuorah is a warm likeable Dorothy and her mesmerising vocals enchant. She is matched by a tremendous tumbling Jonny Fines as Scarecrow, a robotic Paul French as Tin Man and a roarsome Giovanni Spanò as Lion. All three have clearly spent time on their movement and it pays off. Ben Thompson is a master puppeteer and proves it once more as Toto, his movements are precise and he makes Toto a loveable presence on the stage.

Bianco is a cherry on top of this great cast as Glinda. She oozes charm and a gorgeous voice. My only complaint is she isn’t in it enough! Peachey masters both comedy, mystery and like-ability as the Wizard. 

Mitchell gives a magnificent performance as Ms Gulch and The Wicked Witch of the West. She is fierce and commanding in every powerful movement, line or lyric. Special mention must go to Christina Shand in the ensemble who steps into Mitchell’s track with ease and confidence.

That ensemble play a variety of characters throughout the show, from Munchkins, Emerald City folk, Winkies and more in between. They effortlessly nail beat for beat Shay Barclay’s vibrant choreography.

George Dyer adapts some of the orchestrations and the rich music of Harold Arlen and lyrics of E.Y. Harburg with new songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice sounds more alive than ever. It’s rich tapestry that Dyer and the 11 piece band paint an amazing sound. 

All in all and after a sweeping 2 and a bit hour adventure you leave Oz and arrive back in Leicester with an extra pep in your step and your heart full of joy as you exit the theatre. There’s no place like Curve for delivering big epic theatre.

The design might not always work but it’s undoubtedly a cornucopia of sound, video and lights for the senses. Grab a ticket to this huge family spectacular this Christmas. You’ll To-totally not regret it. Absolute magic.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Wizard of Oz plays at Curve until Sunday 8th January 2023. Tickets are available from

Paul French (Tin Man), Jonny Fines (Scarecrow), Giovanni Spanò (Lion), Georgina Onuorah (Dorothy) and Ben Thompson (Toto). Photo by Marc Brenner

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