A round-up of reviews of The Wizard of Oz at the London Palladium
Finally it’s here! The build-up to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new production of The Wizard of Oz has been nothing but intense, from the BBC talent show Over The Rainbow to find a new Dorothy to star in the musical, to the return of Michael Crawford to the stage, to Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice reuniting at last to provide four new musical numbers.
And the reaction from the critics is good, which must come as a relief to Lord Lloyd Webber, who has had a rough 12 months with a series of headaches over the launch of his new Phantom sequel Love Never Dies, his failed attempt to sell some of his theatres, and his personal battle with cancer. He deserved to have a hit, and with Love Never Dies taking 7 Olivier Award nominations last month, and a positive reaction from the critics about The Wizard of Oz, things are looking up!
Danielle Hope, who makes her West End stage debut as Dorothy, gives it her all and impresses the critics with a fine performance. And the new songs go down well, adding to the original score of the stage show and movie. But the real critical superlatives are reserved for Robert Jones and his lavish costumes and set, and Hannah Waddingham, who wows the critics with her performance as the Wicked Witch of the West.
See review round-ups below from the Guardian, Times, Telegraph, Evening Standard and Independent.
“although this adaptation of the Frank Baum book and the 1939 movie, with additional songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, is quite an eyeful, it's somewhat lacking in humanity. I came out feeling blitzkrieged rather than charmed.”
“The star of the show is undoubtedly the set and costume designer, Robert Jones... Not since 19th century Drury Lane melodramas can London have seen anything quite like it”
“Danielle Hope shows a natural, easy presence as Dorothy, but can't hope to compete with the scenery. Even Michael Crawford, playing both Professor Marvel and The Wizard, seems slightly subdued, and misses a trick by not highlighting the latter's resemblance to PT Barnum whom he once played.”
“Only two of the cast transcend the spectacle. Hannah Waddingham makes the Wicked Witch a pointy-chinned ogre who at one point flies over the audience's heads with an elan that Spider Man might envy. David Ganly notches up a first by making the Cowardly Lion explicitly gay and announcing "I'm proud to be a friend of Dorothy."”
“the paradox of the evening is that it suffers the same dilemma as the Tin Man: it might have been so much more if it only had a heart.” - The Guardian
“The aims of the production are to create a stage version that truly rivals, in theatrical terms, the much-loved 1939 movie; to fill in the dramatic gaps left by the great Arlen/Harburg score with numbers specially written by Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice, here collaborating with Lloyd Webber for the first time on a West End show since Evita in 1978, and to make a star of Danielle Hope who was the public's choice for Dorothy on television's Over The Rainbow. It is more successful at some of these ambitions than others.”
“Jeremy Sams's production is a marvel of beguiling narrative fluency and, with Richard Jones's superb designs, of endlessly witty and spectacular visual invention – from the digitally-enhanced hurricane transition to Oz to the skeletally twisted Gothic palace of the Wicked Witch and her totalitarian, helmeted guards.”
“You can't fault the proficiency of Hope's performance or her clear, serviceable singing. But while there is appeal in the way she shows how Dorothy's game and generous spirit always overcomes her nerves, Hope is never going to break your heart, as Garland does with the ache of her yearning to escape from and then get back to Kansas. Her rendition of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" sounds a shade too studied as opposed to vulnerable and spontaneous.” - The Independent
“I can’t pretend that I experienced a damascene conversion at this lavish new stage version, for which the BBC generously provided so much free advertising with the popular talent contest Over the Rainbow, but I did at least manage to sit through it without throwing up in the aisle.
“if you like The Wizard of Oz on film you will undoubtedly enjoy the stage version too.”
“Jeremy Sams’s production pulls out all the stops, with ingenious designs by Robert Jones that skilfully conjure up both the sepia world of Kansas and the lurid colours of Oz.”
“I wouldn’t get too excited by the prospect of the handful of new songs written by the old firm of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, though Red Shoes Blues sung by Hannah Waddingham’s magnificently malevolent Wicked West of the Witch brings some welcome wit to the party.”
“Danielle Hope, who won the competition to play Dorothy, offers a thoroughly competent rather than an inspired performance. She sings Over the Rainbow with feeling, and finds a real spirit of camaraderie with her improbable travelling companions, but she lacks the heart-catching vulnerability of the young Judy Garland.”
“Quite why Michael Crawford has bothered to come out of semi-retirement to play Professor Marvel and the Wizard is a mystery to me.”
“One leaves the theatre humming the tunes and admiring the spectacle. But this finally strikes me as a soullessly efficient production rather than an inspired re-invention of The Wizard of Oz.” - Daily Telegraph
““A wonderful appliance, mostly magic, slightly science,” sings Michael Crawford as Professor Marvel in one of the four songs Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice add to Arlen’s famous music. At times in this high-tech evening, directed briskly by Jeremy Sams, I worried that the balance tipped the other way: technology, polish, and scientifically calculated hype drowning the magic.
“Danielle Hope proves a fine winner: playing it as a robust, rebellious teen with a new song, Nobody Understands Me, to propel her into flight with the dog Toto.”
“It was in the merry Munchkin chorus that I thought “This is just a kids’ show. Panto”. The three friends on the road are fun — Paul Keating physically fearless and funny as the Scarecrow, and David Ganly a very camp lion (“I am proud be a friend of Dorothy”). But for all the fabulous forest, and the glorious pipework and levers and dials of Oz’s lair, it didn’t move me.”
“The second half takes off, being darker and nicely frightening. Hannah Waddingham gives the witch real viciousness, even with Rice-rhymes like “she’s prissy, she’s clueless, I want her shoeless”. Crawford brings vulnerability and humour. I warmed to it at last, despite a helpless sense that it’s a juggernaut. A predetermined hit.”
“Children will remember it for ever. Maybe that’s the point.” - The Times
“It's true to the spirit of the original: some will find it cloyingly sentimental, while others will cherish its zest.”
“Jeremy Sams directs with aplomb and Arlene Phillips provides vivacious choreography. But it's Robert Jones's lavish costumes and lovingly conceived sets that most impress. They evoke a sepia Kansas and a garish Oz. The atmosphere is enhanced by Jon Driscoll's brilliantly disorientating projections, in which, for instance, a furious tornado becomes a fabulous vortex sucking in the audience.”
“The story is lucid and well-paced, though the technological wizardry occasionally obscures its inherent magic.”
“Danielle Hope, picked for the role of Dorothy by the public on BBC show Over The Rainbow, makes a winning impression. Her performance combines innocence with easy charm, and her voice soars.”
“There's an air of competence rather than delightfulness about Paul Keating's ungainly Scarecrow, Edward Baker-Duly's clip-clopping Tin Man and David Ganly's camp Lion.”
“The Wizard himself is played by Michael Crawford - with warmth but limited charisma. More memorable, certainly, is Hannah Waddingham's Wicked Witch - beguilingly sinister and in her more malign moments superbly demented, swooping above the audience's heads astride a scraggly broomstick. Fans of the film will savour such dashes of visual flair.”
“This is a family musical with a gorgeous sense of spectacle, as well as being a polished essay in escapism. It's a little bit nuts, yet none the worse for that.” - Evening Standard
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