The Wizard of Oz at The Attic Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, until Aug 27.
Somewhere under the rainbow, in an actual attic (which comes as a surprise to many visitors), The Wizard of Oz is currently bringing its magical blend of fantasy, music and cyclone-based chaos to audiences in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Review: The Wizard of Oz at The Attic Theatre
The award-winning Tread the Boards team, headed up by Catherine Prout and John-Robert Partridge (who adapted the new play, directed it, and takes a starring role as Scarecrow), has created a fun family show that all ages will enjoy.
There have been many spin-offs from the original text (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L Frank Baum, published in 1900): Wicked in the West End, which is an origins story about the witches; Oz the Great and Powerful, an origins tale about the wizard himself; plus numerous other musicals, films and even silent movies. Not forgetting, of course, the treasured 1939 film starring Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale.
I attended the Attic Theatre on Sunday to see The Wizard of Oz, which closely follows the original text, with my 12-year-old stepdaughter. She recently visited London with her high school buddies to see Wicked, firmly announcing that she was on the side of the witches and no longer Team Dorothy. Oh dear.
I needn’t have worried. She loved it. As did the rest of the audience.
It is family theatre at its charming, entertaining best.
A wide-eyed Dorothy, played by Matilda Bott, captivates from the get-go and doesn’t miss a note of either her Kansas accent or songs such as ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’.
We all know the story: Dorothy is swept away, accidentally kills the Wicked Witch of the East with her house, frees the munchkins and sets off on the yellow brick road to find The Wizard of Oz, who can send her home. Along the way, she collects her ragtag crew – Scarecrow, Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion. It’s all so familiar and yet it’s a delight to see each character introduced, their first song crammed with modern references and jokes that never stray into adult territory but tickle the funny bones of the older audience members.
The laugh-out-loud moments are plentiful, the flying monkeys more hilarious than terrifying (thank goodness, that was a childhood nightmare I didn’t need to relive), and the set changes as inventive as ever (especially the cyclone scene, which I won’t give away).
With the exception of Daniel Arbon (wizard/Tik Tok/professor/caveman-style minion), who steals every scene he’s in, the four main characters capture the heart: Dorothy and her quest to get home; Scarecrow, who only wants a brain, and bounces around the stage as if he really were stuffed with straw; Tin Man, with his innocent yearning for a heart (which, of course, he already has in abundance); and the Lion, whose scaredy-cat screams are still ringing in my ears.
The Stratfordblog verdict
The Attic Theatre is an intimate venue, with the audience members in the first of three rows practically toe to toe with the performers. This personal atmosphere makes it great for family theatre. My pre-schooler would have loved the show, just like the other young children in the audience appeared to.
Go see it!
The Wizard of Oz at The Attic Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, runs until August 27. Book tickets here.