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The Wizard of Oz (Sunderland)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."

Community theatre company Centre Stage North East brought the MGM classic musical The Wizard of Oz to the Sunderland Empire this week.

Things got off to a slightly slow start in Kansas as all we’re really waiting for is that twister to take hold and Dorothy – and her house – to land in the magical world of Oz.

So once the Munchkins have appeared and our heroine has taken her first steps along that famous yellow brick road, then the adventure really begins.

Stepping into the iconic ruby slippers is Emma Gerry as Dorothy. She is joined by Jay Mullen, David Ball and Steven Stobbs as Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion.

This mismatched quartet are nicely played, Stobbs in particular going down a treat with the audience as the cowardly king of the jungle.

All the leading cast have strong singing voices, Gerry delivering “Over The Rainbow” with confidence and the “If I Only…” trio clearly enjoying their moments in the spotlight.

CSNE began as a way for children and young people to get involved in performing arts, and with a chorus cast of 60+, most of these youngsters, it is certainly fulfilling this brief.

Meghan Nicholson provoked some boos from the crowd as the green-faced, cackling Wicked Witch of the West. Her airborne entrance astride her broomstick was a highlight, and just one example of how technically ambitious the production was.

Back on terra firma, the impressive sets, bright colourful costumes and lively orchestra all played their part.

In between the big ensemble set pieces and the well-known songs, the pace did flag. This wasn’t helped by the recurring technical difficulties that seemed to be blighting the sound department.

That said, for the most part the audience, particularly the children, were enjoying the show. There was plenty of clapping along and the hard-working cast received a rousing reception as the curtain came down.


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