It’s Broadstone Pantomime Productions’ 40th anniversary and to mark the special occasion, the company has chosen to put together a comedic take on one of Britain’s well-loved classics, The Wizard of Oz. Before going tonight, I had many questions – where would a pantomime dame fit into this story? Or a love interest for that matter? However, the task of adapting the tale for the pantomime season was, on the whole, delivered well by the creative team, led by director Emma-Louise Pottinger and writer Chelsea Robson.
With what can only be described as creative license, The Wizard of Oz follows Broadstone’s very own Dorothy as she attempts to reunite with her family back home, melt the Wicked Witch’s frozen heart and win the love of her life, the intellectually-challenged Rufus, along the way. The script is dripping in modern puns and twists (baby shark anyone?!), offers a small dose of innuendo (for adults’ ears only, mind!), incorporates the traditional pantomime conventions and allows a small troupe of talented young dancers their moment to shine in well-choreographed ballet and tap. A juggling act well-managed by the writer.
The stand-out performances must go to leading couple Dorothy (Kalikah Stephens) and Yodel-delivery-boy Rufus (Lucy Baksa) who wore his faithful satchel to the very end. The myriad of dynamic faces and body language from both actresses was exquisite, whilst Lucy’s ability to make an audience laugh by saying nothing at all with a gormless expression is second-to-none. Similarly, when speaking, Lucy’s tonal inflections were outstanding and consistent throughout. It is to the actress’s credit that this unknown character turned into one of the most memorable parts of the show. Meanwhile, presumably under the director’s guidance, Kalikah successfully transforms our leading lady from the well-known ‘damsel’ of the Judy Garland film to a livelier, slightly ditsier and comedic character.
In the roles of Aunt Em and the Good Witch Belinda, Matt Tyler offers an unusual take on the pantomime dame. Unfortunately, The Wizard of Oz does not have an obvious character which lends itself to the traditional ‘mumsie-esque’ dame which made some plotting appear slightly awkward. However, Matt’s dead-pan delivery from a larger-than-life character works as a good contrast, especially against his bright pink dress. (I would also like to see whether Belinda got her happy ending with the Mayor of Poole, Sean Gabriel!) As Belinda’s sister and panto ‘baddie,’ Chelsea Robson is well-cast as the Wicked Witch (otherwise known as Sharon). Having never played a bad character before, Chelsea rises to the challenge nicely and appears very comfortable in her direct addresses with the unpredictable audience. As a bonus, Chelsea had the cackle off to a fine art.
Accompanying Dorothy and Rufus, Rachel Leggett, Helen Tucker and Michael Rustici (the Scarecrow, Tinman and Cowardly Lion respectively), embrace their characters’ quirks and mannerisms with gusto. Completing the main cast, Leah Jane as the Wizard and Olivia Leggett as the Herald come into their own in the closing scenes of the show.
A small stage does limit the chorus and, whilst it would have been nice to have seen a couple of big ensemble numbers, the many solos and duets were sung well, aided by pianist Jean Roach. My personal favourite was Dorothy’s and Rufus’ rendition of ‘I Got You, Babe’ and if you haven’t seen a crossover of Avenue Q and The Wizard of Oz, you’re in for a treat with Matt Tyler’s ‘I’m Not Wearing Underwear Today.’
The creative team has successfully put together a unique twist on The Wizard of Oz which engages cast and audience alike and I look forward to seeing future productions by this company. Congratulations to all involved!
Further performances at the Broadstone War Memorial Hall: Sunday 13th 2.30pm, Friday 18th 7.30pm, Saturday 19th 2.30pm & 7.30pm. Tickets £7 and £4 concessions.