Review: The Wizard of Oz at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre

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The REP Theatre has taken us down the yellow brick road this festive season – and it is nothing like you’ve ever seen before. It could only be described as a truly spellbinding refresh.

79 years after the release of the classic film where Judy Garland warmed our hearts, and countless stage performances worldwide, the REP took a new direction.

Their modern manipulation of the cast, set, costumes and puppetry has brought Victor Fleming’s production into the 21st Century.

Based upon L. Frank Baum’s children’s book, The Wizard of Oz follows young and naïve farm girl Dorothy Gale who is swept away on a hurricane to a magical land with her dog Toto, and she goes on her biggest adventure ever to find the wonderful Wizard of Oz to get her home.

She encounters friends like the Scarecrow, Tinman and the Cowardly Lion, and enemies such as the Wicked Witch of the West who is determined to snatch Dorothy’s magical ruby slippers from her feet.

Playing Dorothy, Chisara Agor ditches the farm girl dress and basket for dungarees and Doc Marten boots, splashing the character with tomboyish charm. Despite being the young girl wanting to go back to Kansas, Agor turned Dorothy into a leader with a headstrong attitude and amazing dancing skills.

Directed by Liam Steel, he rejuvenates the classic fantasy with diverse cast members, dynamic choreography and transitions, you get lost in the magical performance that every individual gives on stage.

The set comprises of a large skeleton of the barn, which morphs into every scene to present that Dorothy was never far from home – from Munchkinland to the Witch’s Castle, the use of minimal set and neon lights, intertwining contemporary theatre with the traditional plot.

The comedy was phenomenal – Kelly Agbowu had the audience roaring with laughter with her performance of the Cowardly Lion, along with her astounding, soulful vocals.

The Scarecrow (Ed Wade) and the Tinman (Dillon-Scott-Lewis) gave a truly authentic performance with their flimsy and robotic movements.

The journey these four friends take, while challenging obstacles from the sassy Wicked Witch of the West (Joe Vantyler), is portrayed through minimalist scenes and enchanting choreography from cast and ensemble.

What makes this production stand out from the rest is the imaginative use of puppetry and acrobatics.

For Toto and the Munchkins, every movement is animated precisely by one actor – Toto is brought to life through curious wags of his tail, perked-up ears and barking.

The astounding technical work combined with spellbinding acting – you’ll never want to see another show like this one. It really is time to treat yourself to this theatrical Christmas extravaganza.

The Wizard of Oz is on now at the REP until 13 Jan 2019.

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