The Wizard of Oz

Poulner Players  1st Poulner Scout Hall, Ringwood Chelsea Sherry 14 February 2024

It’s always a bit of a risk to take on a timeless classic. People have expectations in line with original film and stage productions… and have probably seen the show locally a few times before as well! The Wizard of Oz definitely falls within that category, knowing a few people close to me who still regard it as one of their favourites, even after all these years. You can feel safe in the knowledge that Poulner Players have created a good, solid show, with great talent to boot.

One of the most impressive things about Poulner is their commitment to having functioning and effective scenery and props throughout. I’m not certain how they fit everything in, but I think the fact we didn’t see many scenery/props bloopers is a real testament to the stage management crew. A shout-out must also go out to Mary Hyde the scenery artist as the backdrop was quite stunning.

Impressively, despite the hall not being blessed with a lot of space, the Company still had a very small, live band which consisted of two people. In all honesty, the band was perfectly large enough for the space, and taking into account that the cast did not have mics. It’s always nice to see a show with live music.

There is a lot of ensemble work within the Wizard of Oz and, to be honest, the quality of that ensemble work was a bit of a mixbag. Some numbers really stood out with lovely, strong singing and dancing, such as the scene with the trees, the jitterbug and farewell to Oz. Other scenes seemed to have a bit less energy, which was noticeable. This could have been first-night jitters. Vocal volume was an issue on a few occasions throughout the show though, so louder voices are needed.

There is no Wizard of Oz without a strong Dorothy, and there were no issues on that score with Danielle Morris at the helm. She played the role with playful good humour and was a genuinely likeable character. She had great chemistry with her three “teammates”, Scott Douglas, Tom Buxton and Steven Reynolds in the roles of the Scarecrow, Tinman and Cowardly Lion. They were all perfectly cast in the roles, bringing exactly what you would expect to their roles. This is praise from me as there is comfort in seeing the characters we know, and love brought to life.

Ann Clark was a standout as the Wicked Witch of the West. This is very much a go-hard or go-home role, and she did not hold back. Larger than life levels of evil and a perfect cackle. She was a character you loved to hate.

In an unusual move, Toto was a puppet in this version, and it really worked. It helps that he was puppeteered very well by Angela Gregory. There were points where I just watched what Toto was doing as he was always so well animated.

Overall, whilst not seamless, it is a really good show which has clearly been steered very well by Becky North, the director. The show will be on for the rest of the week, and it’s well worth a watch if you’re a fan of the musical.