Even the talented cast can’t save this shoddy production.
The Wizard of Oz, ADC Theatre, 10th- 14th November.
This is probably the most ambitious project on show at the ADC this term. Musicals demand intense periods of rehearsal (both character and technical), careful and measured direction, and a talented close-knit cast. Thankfully it had the third of these. Unfortunately, however, instead of the dark reimagining that we were promised, the audience was presented with a startlingly bright, technically amateur, and poorly thought-out production. The main reason, like the tin (wo)man, it didn't have a heart.
The decision to place Kansas in the middle of the Great Depression severed any emotional connection between the audience and Dorothy from the outset. The Wizard of Oz is an endearingly uplifting tale of a young girl, and her miss-matched friends, overcoming adversity to find her way home. The director clearly never asked himself why sheÂ’d actually want to get back to that nightmarish place. I struggle to think of any directorial concept that could have been worse. Take away the idea of Dorothy's home as a haven and youÂ’are left with apparently the chance to fill an artificially created void with self-referential nods to musical theatre and the Hollywood entertainment industry. It's impossible to empathise with a character whose motivation makes absolutely no sense, and it's therefore unsurprising that most human moment in the entire show was created by a puppet dog.
The production values were low and incoherent, with the attempt to tread a line between 30s Hollywood and 30s Kansas resulting in the set and the costumes being understandably confused. The backdrop conveyed the façade of an art-deco cinema that was neither crumbling nor unused, seemingly impervious to the economic onslaught of depression. Very little attention was paid to OZ. The yellow brick road was shoddy and far too small; the costumes were completely incoherent; and the props-table and costume-rail that appeared for the entirety of the second half were distractingly awful. Apparently the director stormed out of the dress-rehearsal because he couldn't light the word OZ from within the word ROXY emblazoned above a door upstage centre. I think that tells us all we need to know about the type of person that could do this to the story. I just wish he'd gone sooner so the clearly very talented cast could have come together and rescued this production.
In the face of all this it is to the cast's credit that this production received any stars at all. James Sharpe's Wizard and the Munchkins were the undeniable highlights, the latter briefly reminding us that musical theatre can actually be entertaining. Georgina Hunt (Dorothy) also showed glimpses that she'd be able to carry a show (albeit with more careful direction). It certainly helps that she has an incredible Jazz voice, with her rendition of Over the Rainbow the standout musical feat. Unfortunately I can't really comment on the group numbers, as I couldnÂ’t hear any of them. The ADC as a venue has had this problem for a while and (revolutionary as this may sound), the Mumford Theatre is a far better suited to musical theatre, with superior acoustics and a stage that is blessedly wider than it is deep so the actors can't get lost on it. Some senior CUMTS types really should investigate.