In order to do this show justice I need to review it in two parts. Part One will be as brief as the “star” names appearance on the Pavilion Theatre stage. Mario Falcone from The Only Way is Essex, without any effort at all, demonstrates how to be the very epitome of a totally talentless and vacuous “himbo”.
Unable to sing, dance, or, it seems, even to speak unaided, his performance as The Wizard is reduced to some grainy video footage and a cheesy grin when he does make a – very fleeting – appearance on stage just before the finale. He is simply a massive casting mistake and detracts from what would be a better show without him. The fact that he may not make a “live” appearance at all shows should actually be seen as an advantage. For his performance I believe that one star is a little on the generous side.
Part Two now deals with the rest of Paul Hammond’s production and its very hardworking cast. Obviously aware of the massive hole left in the show by the absence of a “star”, several members of the cast do their very best to fill that hole but, in doing so, occasionally fall into the trap of rather overdoing things. Add to that the fact that the storyline has some dramatic changes in it, and that none of the familiar songs from the film is included, and, unfortunately, you have a show that is left sadly lacking.
Despite these failings there are some highlights in the show with Rebecca Westbury as Adeeva, The Wicked Witch of the West, topping that list by belting out an incredible version of Lady Gaga’s "Edge of glory" in Act One and the very risqué, buttock-revealing Las Vegas showgirl outfits ensuring that the “Dads” in the audience have plenty to keep their attention throughout the show.
Dorothy is played by Sarah Brown who, despite appearing to be very young, has appeared as the female lead in pantomimes for the last 10 years. It would be cruel to make any attempt to compare her to Garland, but I will say that it is great that she gets to blast out the ending to "Don’t rain on my parade" and show off her tremendous vocal talent.
Kevin Tillett shows off a dazzling array of costumes, and performs very well as Auntie Em and Belle, the Good Witch of the South, as does Annie Orchard as Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. There are also a number of less familiar characters who turn up in this story like Madrack, the (unicycling) Crazy Warlock Peter Lambert and, as the Showmen and the Keepers of Oz, local radio presenters Tom Evans and Jack Hayes.Their performances help to keep the story moving along at a fresh pace.
Of course, no Wizard of Oz would be complete without the Tin Man, played with the most authentic American accent by Derbyshire-born Gary Starr; the Cowardly Lion, enthusiastically brought to life by Chris Aukett ;and (in my opinion) the real “star of the show” – Joe Conaboy as the Scarecrow. Even though he is just 18, and in his graduation year at Masters Performing Arts College, Conaboy uses the stage like a seasoned professional.
I predict that his ability to connect with the audience, his acrobatic dance ability and his boyish good looks will take him far, not only in the theatre world, but also as part of his new boy band, Kingsland.