Sunday, January 8, 2023

THE WIZARD OF OZ - Ickle Pickle Productions.


Kellee-Rose Hand as Dorothy with Toto

Direction & Lighting Design by Justin Watson – Musical Direction by Jenna Hinton

Choreography & Assistant direction by Jodi Hammond – Set Design by Ian Croker

Costume Design by Janette Humphries – Stage Management by Eve Perry

Belconnen Community Theatre – January 6th – 21st                 

Reviewed by Bill Stephens


Seldom has the journey up the well-travelled yellow brick road to the Land of Oz been more enjoyable than as portrayed in this delightful production from Ickle Pickle Productions.

Crafted on a minimalist budget but realised with a surfeit of imagination by Justin Watson and his creative team, the journey takes place on Ian Croker’s deceptively simple setting. As the journey progresses, Watson and his choreographer, Jodi Hammond, together with their large, enthusiastic cast, manage to transform the stage with a succession of imaginative production numbers. Some of which, particularly the first act finale, recall the type of spectacle reminiscent of the Ziegfeld Follies.

Working with an adaption of the classic film, devised by John Kane for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1987, this production features all the familiar songs from the movie, but also offers more opportunities for the chorus and small vocal ensembles. Musical Director, Jenna Hinton, has taken full advantage of these opportunities to achieve some quite beautiful singing from the ensemble which, teamed with a lush recorded sound-track, often resembles the choral sound associated with classic MGM musicals.

Anchored by a charming performance from Kellee-Rose Hand as Dorothy, the audience is quickly drawn into the story of Dorothy’s journey to the land of Oz.

Jack Morton (Scarecrow) - Kellee-Rose Hand (Dorothy) - Sam Dietz (Tin Man) - Meaghan Stewart (Lion) in "The Wizard of Oz". 

Outstanding in an excellent cast, Jack Morton is particularly memorable as the jelly-legged scarecrow in search of a brain. His rendition of “If I Only Had a Heart” is pure joy. Similarly Meaghan Stewart as the very funny Cowardly Lion adds lustre to her already impressive repertoire with a show-stopping performance of “If I Were King Of The Forrest” which would do credit to any Broadway diva. Completing the trio of Dorothy’s travelling companions, Sam Dietz charms as the Tin Man in search of a heart.

Also outstanding is Debra Byrne in one of her best performances to date as the Wicked Witch of the West who finally meets her match from Glinda the Good Witch played by Aleesha Boye. Elliot Cleaves impresses with his confident portrayal of the Emerald City Guard, while Kristopher Patston-Gil brings a strong stage presence to the dual roles of Professor Marvel and The Wizard.

Colourful costuming by Janette Humphries, imaginative lighting design by Justin Watson, and especially joyful, disciplined performances from the large ensemble as munchkins, winkies, crows, monkeys, even a gossipy apple orchard, all contribute to an irresistibly  enjoyable production guaranteed to enchant young and old alike.

                                                     Images by Cathy Breen

             This review first published in CANBERRA CITY NEWS on 7.01.23