We Are Chester’s Angela Ferguson and her daughters travel to the land of Oz to meet Dorothy, Toto and friends, via the magical winter wonderland that is Storyhouse in Chester. Photos: Mark Carline.
If Nigella Lawson were to branch out into producing recipes for the perfect theatre production then we reckon that The Wizard of Oz at Storyhouse would have pride of place on the cover of the resulting book.
It’s the perfect recipe for a magical glitzy festive offering, with ladlefuls of iconic songs and music, an intoxicating glug of mesmerising performances and, of course, a sprinkling of obligatory scene-stealing courtesy of little Toto. It’s the type of utterly beguiling and moreish dish that will have you wishing you could sneak back for a second and third helping – in true Nigella style.
My daughters and I absolutely loved the show, including a few little surprises that we won’t mention here, in case you fancy heading along to watch. We couldn’t help but coo over little Toto, played by the uber cute Bailey on this occasion, especially when she took herself off stage at one point, clearly having a diva doggy moment. And full credit to the cast for their fine line in witty ad libs to add to the fun.
There’s a good level of audience interaction, which is part of the magic of going to the theatre over the festive season as far as we are concerned. And there are ample opportunities to share an ooh, an ah and a giggle with fellow theatre goers as the show takes us on an enchanting journey. It is theatre at its best, taking the audience on a journey to another world, where we witness our hero Dorothy (Consuella Rolle) face her fears and head on down the yellow brick road, with a fantastically clever bit of theatrical jiggery pokery happening involving her famous ruby red slippers, which is still puzzling us.
Consuella makes the role her own in this classic coming of age story, with a breathtakingly beautiful voice and an empowering portrayal of finding inner confidence and resilience, with a little help from her friends Scarecrow (Natalie Woods), The Lion (Ricard Colvin) and the Tin Man (Ben Oliver). All three of Dorothy’s new friends are utterly captivating and charming in equal measure. Just imagine the kind of inspiring cheerleaders these guys would be if you were to join their Oz family WhatsApp group.
There’s also a stunning performance from Zara Ramm as the Wicked Witch of the West, who owns the stage and some when she makes an appearance. Natasha Bain and Kenny Thompson make for an adorable Aunty Em and Uncle Henry, as well as multi-tasking as Glinda the Good Witch of the North and the Emerald City Guard. Rory McNerney also shines as the spooky Jitterbug and Megan-Hollie Robertson is an agile, if fearsome, Nikko Commander of the Monkeys.
Meanwhile, the Chester-based House of Dance group make the most adorable and cool Munchkins, with the talented community cast and trainee actors, including Cerian Young, Caitlin Harwood and Ciera Evans also wowing on stage with a range of top notch performances.
It was also a wonderful surprise to hear the sound of the orchestra from beneath the stage, overseen by musical director George Francis and musical supervisor Alex Beetschen.
A big part of the recipe for epic theatre also comes from the lighting, so full credit to Prema Mehta for her innovative and imaginative work here, and from the choreography, ably overseen here by Carl Parris. And to round up our festive food-based analogy, Storyhouse artistic director Alex Clifton has to be the loving spoonful of festive tipple that has been poured into all aspects of this divine dish. He has done an incredible job of recreating the land of Oz on the proscenium stage at Storyhouse, with plenty of magic on and off stage to ensure that the audience feel very much a part of this iconic story.
We have given The Wizard of Oz a truly golden ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ It really is a jewel of a show this Christmas! My daughters are still talking about it and I am sure that the magic and the fun will stay in their hearts forever, as I know it will stay with me.
To book tickets for The Wizard of Oz, which runs until 6 January 2019, visit the Storyhouse website.