REVIEW: “The wonderful Wizard of Oz” a clever re-working of the iconic tale at The Brewhouse in Taunton

| Sue Tucker: Muddy Stilettos.

No soap stars, boy band boys or behind you jokes in this year’s Christmas show at The Brewhouse – and it’s not just a scene-by-scene recreation of the iconic 1930s film, either.

Based on the Royal Shakespeare Company’s 1987 script, this Wizard of Ozhas had a subtle compass re-orientation to Somerset.  Dorothy, Toto, Aunt Em, Uncle Henry and the farmhands live in a countryside filled with orchards, cornfields and forests rather than in the dustbowl of America – so no fake American accents (phew).  It’s set in the 1960, not the 1930s, with pyschedelic pop art scenery. And the ruby red shoes are ruby red boots.

The Land of Oz!

You know the story. After falling unconscious during a storm, Dorothy (the perfectly cast Hannah Morrison) wakes up (or is she dreaming?) to discover the sepia landscape of real life has been replaced by the zinging technicolour of the Land of Oz – and she’s accidentally killed the Wicked Witch of the East. Eek. Dorothy and Toto have to follow, follow, follow the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City and the Wizard of Oz  to help them get back home – whilst the Wicked Witch of the West does all she can to stop them.

No dwarves here – the Munchkins are kids – though the falsetto voices of the adult Munchkin mayor and his sidekick (Jeremy Randall and Christopher Laishley, also the Wizard, Emerald City Guard and assorted other characters) are hilarious. Anyone fancy a Haribo?

Hannah Morrison as Dorothy Gale

Joining Dorothy and Toto are the Scarecrow who wants a brain (Tom Babbage, who can make his body completely boneless at the drop of a hat), the Tinman who’d love a heart (Kieron Murch, a giant who’s a whizz on roller skates) and a furry Lion who’s in need of c-c-c-c-courage (Alex Morgan), who’s just adorable.

The grainy Glaswegian accent of Wicked Witch of the West/Miss Creech (Sarah Waddell) is a brilliant contrast to the mellifluous Edinburgh burr of Glinda, the Good Witch of the North/Aunt Em (Jennifer Harraghy).

Sarah Waddell as The Wicked Witch of the West

Another highlight are the puppets of Oz. Clever puppeteer Lana Biba brings the mischievous Toto and scary evil flying monkey Nikko to life.

You’ll know all the songs (sung beautifully) from the film plus an extra jitterbug number epitomising the dance craze of the 1930s, that was cut out of the original movie. Live musicians perched up at the back of the stage add an extra frission to the recorded soundtrack.

Director and choreographer (and Brewhouse CEO) Vanessa Lefrancois has created a super standout show, with excellent performances and imaginative staging in the intimate setting of The Brewhouse, where every single seat has got a great view.  Although quite long at 2 hours 45 mins (including the break for ice creams in the interval), the time just flies by.