Wizard 2


The Amy White Theatre in East Cowes played host to, and put on, a fabulous trip to see ‘The Wizard of Oz’. A summer panto you say? The nerve!

This adaptation of L Frank Baum’s much loved book series by Tom Whalley really captured the innocent spirit of those stories, while providing references and jokes a plenty from superbly cheesy puns to the aforementioned wizard appearing to the Imperial March from Star Wars!

The first thing that struck me about this production, as I sat in the theatre, music blaring and ice cream in hand, was the ingenious use of a “hypeman” working up the crowd BEFORE the show began. I’ve never seen it used in a panto before but it really helped make the show feel interactive from the get go and got the audience pumped, leaving the start of the show full of energy right away.

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Also noticed was the well executed lighting and tech work, often such an unsung part of these big shows. Syncing lights and effects to projected animated visuals is no five minute job and I’d like to pass on commendation to the team that made it possible, it really gave a professional look to what was onstage.

There we saw young Kansas farm girl Dorothy Gale (played very capably by Megan Cooper) whisked away to a magical land, one filled with disco dancing munchkins led by a sassy Glinda played by Vicky Hartley, who entered every scene to “Boogie Wonderland” in a way I am still humming the song as I write. There were innuendo talking trees, evil monkeys with wings and many people executing superb spins in many shades of emerald. The chorus backing Dorothy and her friends up were equally professional and well executed in their dancing and fast costume changes, both younger and older dancers were great!

Charlie Merricks made a delightfully dopey Scarecrow searching for a brain and did a lot of the heavy lifting in engaging the audience. Kyle Quinn was an endearing Tin Man, but the star of the show for me was Ian Townsend as the Cowardly Lion.

Nailing the voice and mannerisms of the original 1939 film version, he brought warmth, innocence and laughs a plenty in his physicality. His performance commanded attention and was a highlight.

Emily Smith delivered a very sneering Wicked Witch of the West who sang “The Show Must Go On” by Queen with aplomb, and who finally got her just desserts thanks to a pail of CGI water. “Toto the Dog” was brought to life superbly by puppeteer Bet Hartley, they really injected a lot of emotion into the dog’s movements and reactions.

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Best cameos came from Callum Davis, whether as Uncle Henry or a Monkey wishing he’d gone to the loo in the interval, he always got a laugh. Mel Smith and Abbie Lemon filled in the altogether well gelled cast with small roles throughout the story.

Having never been to this space before to see a show, I was pleasantly surprised with the clear amounts of fun being had as well as the slick well put together feel of the show. Despite having a small cast and occasionally a bit of unclear dialogue (thick Kansas accents for you) definite props need to go to Tressa Lambert, Ian Briggs and the show’s director Becky Savage.

There’s no place like home sure, but this show definitely whisked me away. I was a little sad at the end that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.

Report by Olly Fry

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