The original MGM film The Wizard of Oz was released in 1939, at a time of turmoil in the world and when the themes of love, hope and friendship were surely a welcome escape.
As Director Sam Horsfield points out, the world is still a place of great change and unrest and this production of a classic tale, with all its colour and magic, once again provides a wonderful respite from everyday life.
Ipswich Operatic and Dramatic Society’s show gave us a cinematic experience with technical wizardry and plenty of Hollywood sparkle. The subtle sepia tones of Kansas were swapped for the technicolour of Oz, and the inhabitants of Munchkin Land hit us with an effervescent kaleidoscope of colour. Glinda the good witch (Charlotte Curtis) floated in and melted our troubles ‘like lemon drops’, captivating young and old who sat spellbound by her stunning dress and confounded by her powers of levitation.
Projections, trap doors and pyrotechnics combined with slick, professional acting and singing, and the cast used their skill and presence to hold us rapt. Lion (Nathan Cant), Tin Man (Michael Haywood Smith) and Scarecrow (Sam Brown) all had us rooting for them in their quest for Courage, Heart and Brain while Charlotte Sheehan’s Dorothy captivated with her honest conviction and a sincere affection for her new-found friends.
The energetic orchestration and effective choreography had a war-time swing vibe which added to the Hollywood feel; the often omitted Jitterbug and the Apple trees with attitude were evocative of the Andrews Sisters and stirred our patriotic emotions.
The costume and props departments must have had fantastic fun and sleepless nights creating such a visual confection; their Emerald City was vibrantly realised in a spectacular homage to Wicked. Every well-designed scene, prop and costume enriched the show with its attention to detail.
The production had all the essential elements of a classic but was fresh and relevant; Lion King in-jokes were seamlessly integrated and asserted the company’s ownership of the material. There was a perfectly ‘wicked’ witch (Kelly Fletcher), hapless guards, wizards and winkies, brilliant flying monkeys, elegant dancers and a fine ensemble of children and adults; the Munchkin mayor, barrister and elders were a revelation. And then there was Toto (Jack); expertly handled by the cast and just as professional, he almost stole the show.
An original poster promoted the film as “Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer’s Technicolour Triumph” and Ipswich Operatic and Dramatic Society’s production has achieved the same, bringing warmth, colour and a reminder that love, friendship and helping others are really the road to our own happiness.