Reviewed by Rebecca Wong
If you’re looking for something to do with the family this week, get yourselves along to St. Helens Theatre Royal; you won’t be disappointed. St. Helens Theatre Royal is easy to get to and a welcoming family friendly theatre in the heart of St. Helens, Merseyside and is always a good bet for great family-oriented shows in the school holidays.
This February is no exception with ‘a wizardly wonderful treat’ in the form of The Wizard of Oz in panto. This classic story is must-see for fans of the original production and a brilliant excuse to introduce younger audiences to the magic of Oz. The Wizard of Oz follows the story of Dorothy (played by Mia Molloy) who lives on a farm in Kansas with her trusty best friend and dog Toto (played by Buddy).
After a confrontation with a rather nasty neighbour, who threatens to have Toto taken away, Dorothy is in fear for her dogs safety and dreams of going to a land far far away where there are no worries and the world sparkles with all the colours of the rainbow. Her three friends, the farm hands, promise to protect her and Toto no matter what. Then a terrible tornado hits Kansas and the farmhouse is lifted away with Dorothy inside. She finds herself transported to a magical world full of unusual characters and finds herself under the guidance of the Good Witch Glinda (played by Abigail Middleton).
Not only does Dorothy now have to find her way back home but she finds that her house has killed the twin sister of the Wicked Witch (played by Samantha Palin). Dorothy is also now in possession of the dead witches magic ruby slippers which will protect her along the way. The Wicked Witch wants the slippers back and vows to kill Dorothy and her dog before she gets the chance to go home. Fortunately, Glinda is able to point Dorothy in the direction of the great Wizard of Oz (played by James Lusted) who lives in the Emerald City. The Emerald City can be found by following the yellow brick road. As Dorothy makes her way along the road she meets 3 unusual friends; a scarecrow (played by Reece Sibald), a tin man (played by Harry Moore) and a Lion (played by Timothy Lucas) who are strangely reminiscent of the three farm hands from Kansas. Each also wanting the Wizard to work his magic on them. The Wicked Witch however has other ideas and uses her evil magic to slow them down on their search for the Wizard, who isn’t as he seems.
Will Dorothy find her way back to Kansas against all odds? Will her three friends get their wishes granted? And will the Wizard ever come through for them? It’s a great tale that has many twists and turns and kept my two children (aged 5 and 7) glued to their seats in-between joining in heckles of ‘she’s behind you’ and ‘oh yes it is’ as well as the obligatory ‘boo’s’ aimed at the evil witch. The panto was fast moving, interactive and had many surprising features that kept the audience engaged and entertained throughout.
Each character was really likable, even the Wicked Witch’s dress was a sparkly feast for the eyes. The scarecrow brilliantly guided the show forward with much hilarity and tongue in cheek references and jokes just for the parents while the kids giggled away at the very visual and slap-stick humour. The addition of Buddy the dog who played Toto was met with sounds of sheer delight from the audience. The music was brilliantly chosen with lots of pop for the kids and songs from various versions of the film. It worked on every level with something for everyone, look out for the neon circus, the shrinking spell and bring your rain hats as the entertainment doesn’t just stay on stage!
The Wizard of Oz is a fantastic show for all the family and a great way to spend some time together over the February half-term.
It’s a 5/5 for me.
Tickets cost from £12 (booking fees may apply).
The Wizard of Oz is at the St. Helens Theatre Royal from 15-23 February 2020, for more information or to book tickets visit www.sthelenstheatreroyal.com or call the box office on 01744 756000.
St. Helens Theatre Royal, Corporation Street, St.Helens, Merseyside, WA10 1LQ