‘Wizard of Oz’ – LAODS – Guest Review – Jordan Leith

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Thank you Jordan for writing and allowing me to share your review.  Having stayed in Kansas for the last 3 weeks, I’m totally disappointed not to have been back to see this show, but thankfully I at least have a glimpse into the fun that this show brought.

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After seeing LAODS (Lincoln Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society) bring Spamalot to the Lincoln Performing Arts Centre last year, I was optimistic for this year’s production of The Wizard of Oz, and was not disappointed. The company brought the land of Oz to life fantastically, paying tribute to the classic well-loved story, whilst also making the performance relative for a modern-day audience.

The show opens in weary Kansas and Dorothy Gale (Natalie Rowe) sings a beautiful rendition of Somewhere Over The Rainbow, the song which traditionally paints the picture of Dorothy as a country girl from the ranch with her head in the clouds, constantly dreaming of better but never doing anything about it. However, Natalie Rowe’s performance developed Dorothy beyond just a damsel in distress, creating more interesting character development and a worthy moral at the show’s conclusion. The director also chose to add a subtle reference to “friends of Dorothy” which was both amusing and a pleasing nod to the legacy of the performance within the gay community.

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After creating a thrilling storm, Dorothy, her house, and her dog, Toto (Daisy), are transported to the colourful land of Oz, turning the stage into a vivid contrast from Kansas. The sudden madcap world of Oz, with munchkins, witches, and talking trees, was portrayed with the wicked sense of humour I have come to expect from LAODS. An outstanding display of comic delivery came from the Scarecrow (Jim Burrows) who brought instant delight with his clumsy tumbling around the stage. Another highlight was the Lion (Andy Morris), charming the audience at every possible moment, and stealing the stage as the dandy lion in every song. Together with the Tinman (Jamie Chatterton), the four leads had an excellent rapport and the friendships felt very real. Every scene between them kept a quick pace and the dialogue and humour between them flowed effortlessly.

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A mention must also be given to Sian-Elizabeth Rees for her portrayal of the wicked witch, a villain we love to hate. She made a menacing foe for the heroes whilst also having a sharp wit, which made her presence missed whilst off-stage. Accompanying her performance was an impressive amount of pyrotechnics to create a stunning supernatural villain. There were various technical elements that brought the show together and although there were a couple of wobbles likely due to the complexity and this being the opening performance of the run, they were all covered smoothly and didn’t take anything away from the show.

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There was also an opportunity for younger children (and big kids) to get photos with the characters after the show to make for a memorable experience. Ultimately it is excellent to see an amateur dramatic group putting on a musical and demonstrating the time and effort of creating a fun-filled show purely because they enjoy it. The enjoyment shines through the performance and altogether, the intricate costumes, the colourful set design, and witty performances created a delightful feel-good show, leaving everyone beaming and skipping home via the yellow brick road.

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The show is on at the LPAC until Saturday 17th of June. Tickets can be bought online by clicking here or at the box office along with the official programme

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‘Fun Home’ – Kauffman Centre for the Performing Arts

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For my second show review during my visit to the USA and Canada this time I’m in Kansas and had the privilege to visit the Kauffman Centre for the Performing Arts and see the award winning musical, Fun Home.  The musical is based on Alison Bechdel’s best-selling graphic memoir and is the winner of five 2015 Tony Awards® including Best Musical.  I’d only read a few snippets about the story and hadn’t heard of it before, but had been advised to buy tickets as it has been a very popular show on Broadway and now on tour.

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One of the things that struck me about this show was how different it was from anything I’d ever seen before.  It’s absolutely not your typical ‘happy clappy’ fun and happy ending kind of a musical – we had moments of laughter but moments of shock and extreme sadness…  we saw into the lives of an American family, torn apart by a dictatorial, controlling father, who is owner of a funeral parlour (nick named Fun Home) and an English Teacher, who loved books.

 

It was really interesting to see Bruce, Alison’s father’s life, open up in layers, over the years, whilst ‘Alison’ watched on as her adult self, reminiscing about her childhood and the happy times she had with her father.  We saw Alison ‘grow’ physically, with her role being played by small, medium and adult Alison; and growing in both learning about herself and in looking back, reflecting on choices she’d made, discussions she had, and wondering ‘what if’.  We saw her coming to a sense of self realisation and in sharing those intimate moments with the audience gave us very special and brilliantly portrayed scenes using both word and movements.

It was both thought provoking and a beautiful insight into family life and all the good and bad that comes from an uncomfortable level of dysfunction all brought together with clever, witty dialogue, using repetitive, rhythmic poetry and song, with the inclusion of some lyrics in a kind of semi-spoken verse.

I loved the music; the live band at the back of the stage were discrete, yet wonderfully powerful at times; the lyrics and movement of both characters and stage set were very cleverly composed and carried out.  I loved the use of the walls, furniture and intelligent lighting; it all set the mood perfectly, especially in some of the more poignant scenes.

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I can completely understand how this musical has won so many awards; the vocal score was brilliant and there was a couple of absolute stand out moments for me through the show.  “Come to the Fun Home” – John, Christian & Small Alison, the ‘siblings’, played by Henry Boshart, Luke Barbato Smith and Carly Gold were fantastic, the dancing the vocals and the choreography – they pulled it off with magnificence – well done!!

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What a way to end a show – very atypical of musical theatre, we ended with “Flying Away (Finale)” – Alison, Medium Alison & Small Alison.  A triumph of a trio, their voices blended in fabulous harmony, they sang with heartfelt emotion and I was physically moved.  Congratulations Kate Shindle, Abby Corrigan and Carly Gold, you were a sensation!

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If you get the opportunity to see this show while it’s on tour, I would highly recommend it, tickets are available from now until December 2017 in various US States with additional tour dates to be announced soon.

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