The Wiz is a show that is not performed very often, perhaps because societies prefer the classic story in The Wizard of Oz, which is why it made it interesting to watch.
Upon walking into the theatre the audience were greeted with a Kansas backdrop very close to the front row of seats and with the action beginning right on top of the audience it really involved and held the audience from the off.
This led to a gradual unveiling of different sets throughout the first act, Kansas, Munchkin Land & The Emerald City, which utilised the relatively small space at the theatre expertly. The use of lighting in the Emerald City / West Witch Castle scenes was excellent.
The cast, the vast majority of whom are long time performers, were phenomenally entertaining, highly skilled and produced professional quality performances throughout with many of them taking on multiple roles.
The initial scenes in Kansas were the most normal of the scenes, with heartfelt performances from Lisa Harris as Aunt Em and Rachel Lane as Dorothy. From then on, things got more than a little surreal.
The initial group of Munchkins, Jamie Fudge, Ian Southgate, Jan Elliot, Emily Funnell and Carolyn Kirkpatrick, appeared to relish performing the zany and very individual characters they had created, each one being slightly different. From whistles and coos to almost Tourette's like exclamations, this group of Munchkins were as entertaining as they were amusing. How Rachel Lane kept a straight face during this scene is beyond me!
The main characters who were introduced throughout the next few scenes, all played their roles well. David Gillett as the Scarecrow was excellent. His singing, dancing and general performance was impeccable. Martin Harris as the Tinman was also excellent, but in a more understated way. Allister Smith, almost unrecognisable as the lion, gave an all out performance, always moving, speaking or reacting to what was going on around him.
It is at this point I would like to talk about the dancers, some of whom took on at least 9 different roles with 9 different costumes, some seemingly only seconds apart. What was shown by these ladies was a master class in character dance, as each new scene / costume meant a new type of dance. From tap (although actual tap shoes would've helped with the sound), to ballet to showgirl numbers, each demanded a different skill. A standout dancer, due to her expressive faces whilst dancing was Nicole Campbell. It was difficult not to watch her solely during the dances because of her facial acting! It goes without saying that whoever was in charge of costumes had a lot to do with the impact of the dancers, so well done to them as well.
Other characters of note were Jon Hare's Head of the Mice Squad, Jamie Fudge's Royal Gatekeeper - the excellent use of breaking the fourth wall made this character - Nina Jarram's Wicked Witch of the West, whose over the top, dramatic death scene was comedy gold, Emma Hewitt's Glinda and of course Justin Cartledge's The Wiz.
The Wiz is not usually the sort of show I would purposely go to see, but Brentwood Operatic Society definitely made it their own, and did so fantastically and if I could I would go and Ease On Down The Road to see it again!
Brentwood's next show is the rather more classic show The Pirates of Penzance in April 2016 at South Weald Parish Hall.