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Royal Festival Hall Revives The Wizard of Oz in July

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Watch out Wicked. London theatregoers will have another opportunity to visit Oz this summer – without Elphaba but with Kansas-born Dorothy and her trusty dog Toto. The Royal Festival Hall is reviving the 1989 stage musical version of L Frank Baum’s original story, The Wizard of Oz, for a limited season from 28 July to 31 August 2008 (previews from 23 July).

South Bank centre artistic director Jude Kelly will direct the new production, following last summer’s revival of Carmen Jones, which reopened the Royal Festival Hall after a two-year, £111 million makeover (See News, 6 Mar 2007).

L Frank Baum himself wrote the first 1903 stage version of his 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The story is best known from the 1939 Hollywood film starring Judy Garland. This musical version, adapted by John Kane from the Warner Bros movie, was premiered by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Barbican in 1987, with a young Imelda Staunton as Dorothy. It has music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and EY Harburg.

Jude Kelly previously directed The Wizard of Oz in Leeds in 2002 as part of her farewell season as artistic director of the West Yorkshire Playhouse (See News, 18 Feb 2002), when Patrick Stewart featured as pre-recorded ‘virtual’ Wizard. No casting has yet been announced for the new Royal Festival Hall production, which will reunite Kelly with Carmen Jones designer Michael Vale.

- by Terri Paddock


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