The Wizard of Oz

Ann Foo

The feminist themes of this story have never come across as strongly as they did in this production.
The Wizard of Oz

Image: The Wizard of Oz playing at Capitol Theatre. Photo by Jeff Busby.

Great fanfare has accompanied the arrival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Wizard of Oz at the Capitol Theatre in Sydney.

There’s no shortage of bells and whistles in this production. From set design, costume design, an impressive animated video component, and the addition of two live terriers (Flick and Trouble) who jointly play Toto, this production is unashamedly trying to impress, and impress they did.

Staging such a well-worn classic poses it’s own set of challenges in trying to live up to the hype. This version stays pretty true in spirit to the classic 1939 MGM film, with a few subtle modern twists, striking a delicate balance between nostalgia and maintaining relevance to a modern audience.

This is a family-friendly production and there were no shortage of tiny red slipper adorned feet at opening night. But there was plenty of adult humour thrown into the mix to keep all ages entertained. ‘Some people go both ways,’ Scarecrow shrugs at a crossroads, setting the queer friendly vibe of humour. The sumptuous set design is a modern homage to the classic MGM film. Scenes in Kansas begin with a sepia toned photo-realist aesthetic before exploding into full technicolour glory once Dorothy arrives in Oz. Flowers and forests unfold like a pop-up story book, cleverly acknowledging the 2-dimensionality of film in a 3D space. The tornado sequence is an absolute treat – multiple layers of 2D projections across the stage with the performers sandwiched between them creates a truly action-packed realisation of this scene.

Lucy Durack and Jemma Rix reprise their Wicked roles as Glinda the Good Witch and the Wicked Witch of the West respectively. Both characters benefit from the modernising that Wicked provided – Rix is a feline villainess, Durack is a more caustic Glinda than her sickly sweet roots. Ultimately, both portrayals are more relatable characterisations of good and evil, which works well for a classic where the tension between good and evil is no longer the suspenseful dichotomy it originally was. Samantha Dodemaide as Dorothy premieres in her first major leading role. She brings a welcome freshness and enthusiasm to an otherwise seasoned cast, and even amidst an unfortunate shoe malfunction, soldiered on like a pro, never missing a beat. She is an evidently older Dorothy to what we’re used to seeing, which enabled the feminist themes of the story to be foregrounded. In this production, Dorothy and Glinda being of similar age, their dynamic demonstrates an idealised support network between two women, as opposed to the typical older authority figure passing wisdom onto a child dynamic that it once was. The feminist themes of Dorothy’s journey, from seeking solutions from a male false prophet, to understanding her own agency, have never been as clear to me as they were in this production.

The Wizard of Oz is a sensory feast for the eyes and the ears which genuinely transported the audience to a magical place, as evidenced by the standing ovation from a full house. For all ages, from all walks of life, you’ll find there’s very little not to like.

This production is  a sensory feast that will transport you to a magical place.

4 ½ stars out of 5

The Wizard of Oz

Additional Music by
Additional Lyrics by
Adaptation by
Anthony Warlow AM
Lucy Durack
Jemma Rix
Samantha Dodemaide
Eli Cooper
Alex Rathgeber
John Xintavelonis

Capitol Theatre, Sydney
30 December - 4 February 

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Ann is a guild award-winning Sydney based film editor and writer.