JUST as a twister transports Dorothy Gale over the rainbow, this production of the Wizard of Oz took me to another world.
Or perhaps another time would be more accurate. Sitting at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre last night for the opening night of Andrew Lloyd Webber's London Palladium production of The Wizard of Oz, I was once again 7-year-old Shannon Newley, attending a theatre show for the first time.
I didn't know if this production of the Wizard of Oz could illicit the same shock and awe in me as it did 26 years ago and the times I have seen it since.
But it is hard, just like it is for Dorothy, not to get carried away.
All of the solo performances are wonderful, with Anthony Warlow perfectly portraying a quirky but loveable Wizard and Professor Marvel, while Lucy Durack is as charming as ever as Glinda the Good Witch - a role she owned for four years in Wicked.
Her Wicked co-star Jemma Rix is terrifying as the Wicked Witch of the West, and rising star Samantha Dodemaide is the tough yet vulnerable Dorothy whom I have worshipped since I was a child.
This is unlike other productions of the Wizard of Oz I have seen. No longer do we rely on Scarecrow's slapstick or the Lion's cowardice to get a few laughs.
The dialogue, while remaining true to the original script, has been updated to include a lot more humour. Most of the main characters, including the usually sweet but serious Glinda and callous Witch of the West, get great one liners throughout.
Eli Cooper delivers the best of these while still giving an effortlessly physical performance of the stumbling Scarecrow we all know. Alex Rathgeber's Tin Man has as much heart as any tin man. And John Xintavelonis is a sweet and funny cowardly Lion.
But it is the ensemble pieces that really surprises me. From the munchkins celebrating the death of the Wicked Witch of the East to the citizens of Emerald City welcoming the rag tag group of travellers, the choreography and vocal performances of the ensemble cast are so big and well executed, you can't feel like you are anywhere but Oz.
The sets for every scene are fantastic and are helped along with some smart digital effects that certainly didn't exist last time The Wizard visited the Lyric Theatre. But once again it was the costumes for the ensemble cast that make it impossible not to get lost in the show.
This modern, funnier production of the Wizard of Oz perfectly straddles a commitment to the original story while offering up a bit more in a way that even life-long fans such as myself can appreciate and enjoy.
Even those who aren't as in love with the story as me will struggle not to find themselves swept in to the land Oz during the ensemble pieces, and for that alone it's worth seeing.
The Wizard of Oz plays QPAC's Lyric Theatre through December 3.
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