Last week me and the kids were kindly invited to the press launch of The Wizard of Oz at Blackpool Winter Gardens. I have taken Harry several times since he was small but for Charley, this would be her 1st taste of the theatre. The production is advertised as ‘ the perfect family treat this Christmas’ so I thought this would be a safe bet to take a 3yr old too.
We were given tickets for the dress circle with a perfect view of the stage and sat down at 6.50 with our large bucket of popcorn & drinks all ready for the 7 p.m curtain up. Sadly at 7.15, we were still waiting and with people now sat each side of us trying to entertain 2 children in a confined space with promises of “it’s about to come on did start” soon wore thin. At about 7.22 the curtain did go up and I do have to say it was well worth the wait. The set design was one of the best I had ever seen and the transitioned from one scene to another was seamless. Just a quick mention for anyone whose eyes are sensitive to light, the tornado scene does feature strobe lighting and even just as a glasses wearer it started to give me a headache. As a suggestion maybe just close your eyes for a couple of minutes.
Dorothy is played by X-Factor star Holly Tandy and as this is her musical theatre debut I have to say she was amazing. Her rendition of ‘somewhere over the rainbow ‘ was simply beautiful and it was at this point I saw both kids transfixed. The witch who was played by Sarah Tullamore was truly evil with a perfect cackle and high-pitched voice. The scenes of her flying through the air were very realistic and with the added lightning & strobe effects it left you at the edge of your seat worried for poor Dorothy. Soap star Kelvin Fletcher plays the Tin Man and his performance was anything but stiff. His accent, dancing and general enthusiasm for the role really showed his true acting ability. The Scarecrow was played by Kieran McGinn who was a firm favourite with my 2 thanks to his comical one-liners and my own personal favourite was the Lion played by Radio Wave’s Scott Gallagher. He was very convincing as a scaredy cat lion and I wasn’t expecting him to have a singing voice as he did. All of the main cast didn’t miss a beat with their performance on the night.
The whole production was stunning and no attention to detail was left out. Everything was very realistic and the cast was always on the go either singing or dancing. If I am completely honest, there was a bit too much going on for a family aimed production. The whole show is 2 and a 1/2 hours long and with young children, this is far, far too long to ask them to concentrate for. As beautiful as some of the dance numbers were at least 4 could easily have been cut without affecting the storyline and making the production length much more ‘family friendly’. One dance number that definitely needs to stay in though was the Munchkin scene performed by local dance school children. This was one of mine and the kids favourite scenes and I can tell you now I can see several of them as West End stars soon.
So to sum up, I can’t fault the quality of the production or the actors who performed on the night. Tickets are available from £12.50 and you will 100% be entertained. If you are taking little ones then be prepared for wiggly bums and take a good supply of snacks and juice with you. The stroke lighting, bellowing voice of the Wizard and the loud thunder sound could also do with toning down for the sake of the little ones but all in all the production gets a firm 8/10 from us. It was lovely to take the kids to a Christmas show and The Wizard of OZ was a beautiful introduction to the theatre for Charley.