The Wizard of Oz at the Curve: a ‘sumptuous’ but frantic new show

Leicester production features ‘incredible animated projections’

Wizard of Oz production
The ‘startling and vibrant design’ sets this production apart

The Curve in Leicester has become a “musical theatre powerhouse” in recent years – staging a stream of hit shows and Christmas spectaculars, said Veronica Lee in the Daily Mail. Artistic director Nikolai Foster’s “sumptuous” new production of The Wizard of Oz is his latest triumph – a “visual as well as a musical feast”, with “lavish” costumes and charming puppetry: Toto is so “delightful” that the little dog “threatens to steal the show”.

The set design is clever too. To remind us that the original 1939 film was set in Depression-era America, there are projected newspaper headlines, and at the Wicked Witch’s castle, there is a “strong Nazi vibe”. In short, this terrific show will please theatregoers who like a production “to have a political or moral message, as well as those who just want to enjoy two hours of feelgood” musical entertainment.

It is the “startling and vibrant design” that really sets the production apart, said Phil Lowe on What’s on Stage. Some “incredible animated projections” help transport us, with Georgina Onuorah’s Dorothy, from the Kansas dustbowl in the 1930s to a “neon-lit technicoloured 1950s Americana-influenced” Munchkinland.

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This Oz is an “otherworldly” place, created by “sheer theatrical wizardry”, where cans of sweetcorn grow on stalks and witches fly around on motorbikes. Too good to miss, this “musical extravaganza” will “blow you away”.

The only trouble with all this technical wizardry, is that it rather overwhelms the storytelling, said Ryan Gilbey in The Guardian. It makes everything feel a bit “cluttered” and frantic. The cast deliver, though. In Onuorah, the show has a “winning” Dorothy. There’s a “knockabout” Scarecrow (Jonny Fines), a “precious” Tin Man (Paul French) and a “highly strung” Cowardly Lion (Giovanni Spanó).

Still, it seemed to me that some of the characterisation fails to convey the necessary warmth and wonder, said Donald Hutera in The Times. Fundamentally, the problem with this loud, “ostentatious” production is that it lacks “a deeper level of feeling. If it only had a heart…”

Curve, Leicester ( Until 8 January

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