Everything you expect - and a little bit more

Wizard of Oz performed by YEODS
Wizard of Oz performed by YEODS

No ordinary half-term for the talented performers of Young EODS: at the Devonshire Park Theatre this week, they’re off to see the Wizard!

The much-loved show has everything you expect from a youth production – and a little bit more. A cast of thirty spanning ages eight to 18, bubbling with energy, thrilled to bits to be on a professional stage, and enjoying it at least as much as the audience. Canny direction, by experienced Jade Powers, which draws the very best from their talents. Fabulous sets and costumes – courtesy of that huge backroom team that EODS can call upon.

And the little bit more? You’ll need to keep reading...

For all its iconic status, The Wizard of Oz is an odd show. The story, a lovely piece of fantasy, just feels that little bit dated. Perhaps it’s been left behind in the flood of newer musicals – including of course Wicked.

But for EODS, The Wizard of Oz exactly fits the bill, with a clutch of excellent character parts and some good, manageable ensemble numbers. A jaunty band, directed with precision by Michael Cullen, never overwhelms the vocals, and both solo and chorus sing beautifully.

Katie-Louise Wren plays Dorothy a little more sassy and knowing than your average Kansas girl, interacting superbly with her three fellow travellers – Corey Hennelly’s hilarious Scarecrow, Damon Miller as an engaging Tin Man, and Elli Manville’s wonderful if slightly girly Lion, all three with wonderful body language and movement.

And the two Witches are outstanding. Hayley Huggett shimmers as Glinda, and Wicked Witch Alessia Del-Gaudio wreaks her mischief with fiendish glee.

After a slightly hesitant first few minutes, everything was purring nicely when we reached a spectacular Finale Act One with a breathtaking swirl of Jitterbugs. And then came the extra dimension: instead of that usual clichéd second half, with its interminable Yellow Brick Road, we were shaken from our expectations by a fabulous Act Two in a version of the script not often used, with some clever Jade Powers tweaks. Sets were bathed in ghastly green – a little homage to Wicked? – and in eerie grey, and the action wrapped around us.

Oh yes, we did reach the Magic Kingdom, but by a slightly different route. Get along to the Devonshire Park and find out more for yourself...Review by Kevin Anderson.