"THE WIZ" by New Street Theatre and Lakeside
Nottingham Djanogly Theatre, Lakeside.
Director Martin Berry told the cast before hand to, by all means watch the film version of "The Wiz" made by Motown, but then to forget everything except the storyline, and I now see why he did that. This is an urban version of "The Wizard Of Oz" but Martin Berry has changed the settings and part of the plot to bring the storyline to 1970's Northern Soul Britain.
I'm going to be very careful so as to try and not give too much of the new plot away but let's say that it is far more entertaining than the film, it's funkier than the film, and it's so much funnier than the film version.
This musical is all about fun with a capital "F" and is a departure of sorts for Martin because this is an out and out, almost non-stop musical that is snappier than a barrel load of crocodiles.
A sparse but effective set which in parts brought memories of my mobile DJ days flooding back (yes you didn't get that with the film). The focus is on dancing, singing and having fun and if you're a fan of Northern Soul music and dance you'll love the new remixed storyline.
Charlotte-Louise Brailsford, was fun to watch as Dorothy and has a cracking singing voice. She brings a new version of Dorothy to life, a Dorothy who has more oomph than Diana Ross brought to the film role.
Sian Elise-Langley is the show's Scarecrow. Very today in the character's attitude and is found by Dorothy at a bus stop, of all places, trying to buy a brain!
Next to hook up with the Yellow Brick Road travellers is the Tinman, who is after some oil, Not for him but for his motorbike which has had a spell cast on it and won't work. The Tinman is a cool 70's biker in a mod suit, who plays not only electric guitar but a mean harmonica and dances not unlike Michael Jackson, who played the Scarecrow in the original film. Ritchie Stainsbury is the man of many talents who also showcases his bluesy voice and harmonica on the song "If I Could Feel".
Completing the quartet is the Cowardly Lion, and an actor I was really looking forward to seeing in this role as I loved him as Gavroche in "Les Mis" at The Arts Theatre. Lennon Bradley was just brilliant in this role and he exceeded all of my hopes for the role. He's especially good in the section in the Poppy Field with his smooth moves. Lennon is a little powerhouse of fun who can sing, dance and be funny all at the same time.Great confidence as stage presence for one so young.
The Wizard is played by a regular Nottingham stage actor, who I think I can honestly say, I've never seen him play a duff role, and he doesn't start here. Mark C-Bainbridge has a great little twist in his role, which I'm not going to reveal but, let's just say The Wiz really originates from not a million miles away from Nottingham and you may be surprised at The Wizard's day job!! Mark pulls on his flares and gets down in the groove and exercises his rich vocals, especially on the song that Lena Horne sung in the film, "Believe In Yourself". And ladies... there's flesh flashed as well. He may not be Magic Mike but you'll not be disappointed by Magic Mark's performance.
Alleisha Furlonge-Royal also has a great set of lungs on her in her role as Evilene, and turns in a credible and funky performance, as did all of the actors.
A brilliant ensemble who are energetic and enthusiastic with the dance routines, which I know couldn't have been easy to master, because Northern Soul dancing isn't easy to make it look as natural as they made the routines look. A brilliant job by choreographer Rebekah Roberts, ably assisted by Emily Thurston.
A live band on stage created a crisp and clear sound under the expert musical direction of Katherine Tye.
The continuity announcer was also fun to hear with some local and comical speeches that kept the flow of the musical going in between the scenes.
Oh and what about Toto, I hear you cry! Well Toto is in the show of course. You can't have Dorothy without Toto can you? But Toto looks a little different from other dogs in this version... but then again this is Martin Berry directing, so you should expect something just a little different and off the wall.
This is a fresh, fun, and much better version of the film version of "The Wiz" with a cracking cast which will have you dancing in your seats. It's also vibrant, fast moving and bright and will also bring back some lovely memories of The Twisted Wheel, The Torch and the world famous Wigan Casino with some of the routines and the film footage.
Ease On Down The Road to see "The Wiz" at Djanogly Theatre, Lakeside until Saturday 25 July 2015. Y'all got it? This is one show that you will not forget as soon as you get home.