Conjuring the magic of nostalgic childhoods, The Wizard of Oz, commences the Christmas season in The Quarry Theatre where Leo Owen caught the show

THIS year’s festive show celebrates the transformative power of the individual, adapting the well-loved 1939 Judy Garland film for the stage, rather than following the original Lyman Frank Baum source material, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Opening with projections of “The American way”, Director James Brining’s Wizard of Oz is set during the devastating 1930s’ dust bowl. Designer Simon Higlett’s stark opening set relies on multi-media imagery to depict Dorothy’s Kansas farm where a tornado rips her from her family, depositing her in a mysterious emerald land called Oz.

Higlett’s design utilises a revolving stage circle, water tower and projected backdrops, including the infamous yellow brick road and poppy field. Alongside this are some impressive set pieces with a vibrant rainbow-coloured Oz in a nod to the film’s revolutionary “technicolour” and a ginormous hourglass to depict the Wicked Witches’ lair.

As Dorothy, Lucy Sherman’s (one of two talented teens sharing the role) melodramatic performance plays to the traditional panto audience while her opening vocals for “Over the Rainbow” don’t disappoint. There’s applause for the arrival of Toto the dog, the scarecrow’s (Eleanor Sutton) well-choreographed introduction and the Wicked Witch’s dramatic appearance from the floorboards. As our villain, Polly Lister also plays for the panto crowd, clearly relishing the role of baddie with gusto, despite the absence of green skin tone.

To delight and fright the little ones there are bouncing monkeys on harnesses who appear from the ceiling dressed like Biggles pilots. Trees are clearly inspired by land girls; Brining’s munchkins are a new improved PC version and puppets are added to the mix. Despite all this visual simulation, it’s the energetic whole ensemble numbers in the second act “The Merry Old Land of Oz” and “Jitterbug” that are particularly fun to watch. In all vocals are unanimously strong but Marcus Ayton as the lion is the stand-out performer.

Brining’s vision is as always ambitious and on the whole effective, despite some misplaced silks choreography, a dubious storm sequence and one unhappy dog by the show’s close. Another sensational seasonal spectacle to savour well into the new year.

The Wizard of Oz shows in The Quarry Theatre 20 November-25 January: