By Jerome Studdy
Lane Cove Theatre Company are part way through their run of The Wondrous Wizard of Oz at The Performance Space @ St Aidan’s, and the show proved itself to be more than just a production, but an ideal environment for budding theatre folk to foster their talent. With the average age on-stage unlikely to be above 12, this was definitely not a high-end professional production, however, it quickly became apparent that it was a production with a great deal of heart, and one that is serving a very important purpose. In the theatre industry, we can be very quick to forget that performers and artists and technicians have to start somewhere. For a number of the budding performers on-stage, this may have been their first encounter with choreography, or quick changes, or fog machines, or strobe lights. After initially wondering why I was reviewing such young actors, I realised it was a chance to continue giving those involved a chance to experience more of the industry, making me quite excited to share my review.
The production is an adaptation of the original Wizard of Oz by director Cameron Farnham. It features an abridged version of the original script and plot, with musical numbers from the original film, songs from The Wiz, Wicked, Into the Woods, and even a few pop songs thrown in for good measure. Farnham has provided some great material for the performers to engage with, and has created a show that was appealing across the very broad range of ages in the audience. In conjunction with Assistant Director, Sarah Edwards, and Choreographer, Emma Ashley, the team have done a commendable job of managing a large cast on stage, and providing a chance for each member to enjoy the spotlight. Notably though, there was no Music Director listed as part of the team, despite the show being musically quite heavy. While the singing from the cast was really quite good, it did cause for some concern in regards to vocal technique and strain. I strongly encourage any company or creatives who are working with young voices to ensure they have appropriate professional advice. Some vocal performances in the show have potential to be causing high fatigue and potentially damage.
The cast were a charming bunch, with some excellent performances scattered throughout the show. Madeleine Biddle as Dorothy was equal parts enjoyable and sassy. Paired with a very sweet Ahelya Mahajan as Toto, the two did an excellent job of moving the story along. Benjamin Walsh provided an incredibly endearing Scarecrow, Kate Anthonisz as Tinman was lovely to watch and surprised the audience with moments of excellent dance technique, and Alexei Belchenko nailed the comedic timing and melodrama necessary for the Cowardly Lion. Amber Johnson as Glinda, The Good Witch was vocally excellent and had an excellent dynamic with the younger cast members. Deborah George played an appropriately screechy and determined Wicked Witch, however, some lines were lost to the vocality of the character, and the character often broke as George concentrated on other production elements. The ensemble were remarkably strong! Each pop out line was well delivered, and there was such heart in the performance. My favourite cast members were the baby chicks in the opening scene, who were an absolute delight to watch.
For a small piece of community theatre, the production elements were a cut above. An impressive range of lighting, rigged backdrops, fog machine, and other technical elements helped to keep the audience engaged, and improved the overall quality of the show. A special mention to the lighting effects used to create the tornado scene, one of the most compelling moments in the show.
A big bravo to the creatives and company of The Wondrous Wizard of Oz. I encourage all involved to continue working in theatre and fine-tuning their craft. The opportunity created here for young performers is invaluable. Ultimately, this is the sort of show that would typically draw a crowd of family and friends, but if you live in the Lane Cove area, grab a ticket, grab the family, and go and see the talent that’s in your community.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.