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Direct from the London Palladium, The Wizard Of Oz is currently enjoying a very successful UK tour and is this week stopping off at Birmingham Hippodrome.

This timeless tale (and legendary score) needs little introduction. Eighty-five years ago, MGM turned L Frank Baum’s much-loved children’s novel, The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz, into a multi-award-winning fantasy film starring Judy Garland. This touring stage production not only features the iconic score from that movie - including Over The Rainbow, Follow The Yellow Brick Road and We’re Off To See The Wizard - but also boasts additional songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.

Following a tornado, Kansas resident Dorothy and her little dog Toto find themselves in a very strange and colourful land called Oz. Complete with her newly acquired scarlet slippers, Dorothy befriends a scarecrow who’s looking for a brain, a tin man in need of a heart, and a cowardly lion who badly requires a dose of courage. Together - and following the advice of Glinda, the Good Witch of the North - they embark on a journey along the yellow brick road to the Emerald City, to ask the legendary Wizard of Oz to help them find what they’re looking for...

There’s one significant problem, though. The ever-so-evil Wicked Witch of the West has other, far more sinister plans for Dorothy...

The original Wizard Of Oz film was celebrated for its use of technicolour at a time when most movies were still being shot in black-and-white. If you remember the film (and it’s reasonable to ask: who doesn’t?), you will recall that it begins in sepia tone and then bursts into vivid colour once Dorothy lands in Oz. This ‘magic trick’ is cleverly recreated in the stage production via the use of gloomy lighting and drab-coloured costumes during the Kansas scenes, and bright lighting and vibrant, colourful costumes as soon as Dorothy arrives in Oz.

Rather than large props and multiple scene changes, stunning video projections provide an almost-cinematic backdrop to the show’s action. These really come into their own when special effects are required - such as in the flying monkeys scenes and with the tornado that lands Dorothy in Oz.

The show’s costumes and dance routines are seriously impressive, and the high-energy performances of the exceptionally talented cast are richly enhanced by the charm of a live orchestra.

Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood - with flawless green make-up, couture costumes and a flamboyant stage presence - is, to quote the man himself, “fab-u-lous” as the Wicked Witch of the West, liberally oozing meanness and menace wherever he/she goes. JLS’s Aston Merrygold, meanwhile, plays the tin man missing a heart to absolute perfection, while Aviva Tulley is utterly captivating in the hugely demanding role of Dorothy. Showcasing an exquisite voice, she presents the character as savvy and confident, in direct contrast to Judy Garland’s famous interpretation. Dorothy’s faithful dog Toto, here played by a puppet, is beautifully ‘brought to life’ by Abigail Matthews. And Emily Bull is entirely enchanting as Glinda, standing out from the crowd in her candy-pink costumes as she zips around the stage on her matching pink scooter...

Although this is without doubt a fantastic stage adaptation of the classic and much-loved 1939 movie, it also manages to be a refreshingly modern and very funny show. Indeed, if you love the story of The Wizard Of Oz, this production is likely to leave you loving it even more.

You have the rest of this week to make a trip along the yellow brick road with Dorothy and friends - and I highly recommend that you do just that!

5 Stars

The Wizard Of Oz was reviewed by Sue Hull on Wednesday 12 June at Birmingham Hippodrome, where it shows until Sunday 16 June. The show then visits Wolverhampton Grand Theatre from Tuesday 30 July to Sunday 4 August.