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REVIEW: The Brewhouse Theatre in Taunton serves up a Wizard of Oz to keep you spellbound from start to finish

| Lawrence John: Somerset County Gazette. 

WATCHING The Wizard of Oz, the one phrase which kept going through my mind was ‘never lose hope’.

This message of hope was made loud and clear at the end ofthe first act of this production of The Wizard of Oz.  The Tin Man, Dorothy and Toto, the Scarecrowand the Cowardly Lion come through adversity and come closer to the EmeraldCity which they can see on the horizon at the end of the Yellow Brick Road……..

…….The four characters (The Tin Man, Dorothy and Toto, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion) head off to see the Wizard of Oz to get hope back in their lives.  They certainly travel in hope, they hope they will succeed and the hope they will get a heart, a brain a courage or to get home.

The production at The Brewhouse is the RSC’s 1967 version of The Wizard of Oz.A couple of subtle changes you will notice is Dorothy lives in Somerset, speaks with a Somerset accent and she wears red ruby boots not ruby slippers.

This show as directed and choreographed by VanessaLefrancois is effervescent and full of energy and movement.  Dorothy as played by Hannah Morrison is theglue which holds this play together.

She is in it all the way through, it is her story, her journey and her struggle.

The 21-year-old actress achieves all of this with great aplomb. She takes an iconic role (made famous by Judy Garland) and makes it her own in this production. She is not trying to be Garland or mimic Garland, she is just Dorothy and this adds sparkle to the play.

Kieron Murch who plays The Tin Man gets the balance right between a noble man who has fallen on hard times but wants to gain a heart to love again.

Tom Babbage is the Scarecrow produces a strong physical performance as the straw man. In his case movement is everything and he keeps up this physical work from start to finish.

Alex Morgan as the Lion brings a cowardly comic edge to the lion without any courage.

There are other good performances from Jeremy Randall who is the Wizard of Oz, Christopher Laishley the Emerald City Guard, Sarah Waddell as the Wicked Witch of the West and Jennifer Harraghy as Glinda.

A special mention should go to Lana Biba the puppeteer of Toto/Nikko who does sterling work throughout the play. And credit to her is even though she is on stage we see her but never really notice her as Toto for example grabs out attention.

What does this production give the audience?

It gives you a Technicolour tale mixed with songs you know and characters you have seen or met before. The skill of this Wizard of Oz is we all (those who have seen the film)know the outcome, we know what will happen.

But the great skill is to keep everyone hooked and caring even thought they know the outcome.

For this production it is its greatest asset.