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Review - The Wizard of Oz

Review - The Wizard of Oz
In her first major role Shayna Cairns starred as Dorothy in Variety Theatre Ashburton’s Wizard of Oz.

The Wizard of Oz is better than Wicked because it’s more authentic.
Variety Theatre Ashburton’s Wizard, which opened last night, fleshes out the Judy Garland story, adds substance to the characters and re-imagines it as a family musical.
In doing so it becomes a far more fulfilling show. Yes, it’s wordy and the talented cast had to work hard in the first act to keep the narrative going. There were moments when dialogue and direction failed to ignite.
But if act one told the story and prepared Dorothy to challenge the Wicked Witch and return to her Kansas farm, the second act exploded with action. It’s what the show needed and the audience were rewarded with a spectacular and satisfying ending.
When the wicked witch, who confronted our heroine at every turn, disintegrated, we felt like standing and congratulating Dorothy.
While The Wizard of Oz is an ensemble production, there was impressive individual talent on display. Shayna Cairns was a fine Dorothy in her first major role. She maintained a convincing presence on stage and possesses a Judy Garland edge to her voice that the role required.
Scarecrow (Matt Williams), Tin Man (Joe Danielson) and Lion (Paul Fidow) are more than her companions. They’re a wonder to behold and ensured their personalities were compelling and clearly defined. How the lion overcomes his cowardliness is a testament to talent and direction.
The Wicked Witch was made for Kim Vessey and her Pinocchio nose. It’s fun to play evil and she relished the role with a laugh that would scare kids’ corner at Ashburton Library. Emily-Jane Farr (Glinda) and Peter Livingstone (Uncle Henry/Guard) were iconic while David Stoliker as the Wizard enveloped the most complex role as a “good man but a very bad wizard.”
While most characters are one-dimensional, Stoliker had to instil a chameleon into his character.
Special mention must be made of the set, lighting and sound. The Ashburton Event Centre has a reputation for production values and in Roger Farr and David Bleach, they have craftsmen doing their job.
Most shows and won or lost on their vocal prowess, Wizard less so because the songs are catchy but not demanding however the soloists and children and adult choruses were well drilled and the off-stage voices tuneful.
The Wizard of Oz will be remembered as a spectacle where acting, dance combine with visual effects to provide a thoroughly enjoyable night out.

  • By Malcolm Hopwood