Last night we went to watch the opening night of The Wizard of Oz at St. Helens Theatre Royal, our favourite place for pantomimes and once again we spent the evening belly laughing from start to finish. I always worry that there will come a time when these pantomimes will start to feel a bit samey samey as we go as regularly as we can and yet each time I leave feeling shocked at how they have once again mixed things up.
Regal Entertainments versions of The Wizard of Oz has all the elements of a perfect pantomime; feet tapping music, audience participation, an element of magic, and a devilish baddie, as well as so many extras from pre-recorded footage to pyrotechnics that will have you jumping out of your seat, making this a show to remember.
Last night we saw Mia Molloy perform her debut for St. Helens as Dorothy and what a wonderful Dorothy she makes. Here rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow was incredible and I have a feeling we will be seeing a lot more of Mia at St. Helens Theatre in the future.
We were also introduce to Reece Sibbald for the first time last night as he performed the part of the scarecrow. Reece not only made a lovable scarecrow but he also had the audience in stitches with his terrible dad jokes, adult innuendos and his brilliant ability to engage with the audience and make you laugh with a simple cock of the head and raise of an eyebrow. Never before have I seen the scarecrow take on such a major role in the story but then again St. Helens Theatre have a track record of turning things on their head and making them work so I don’t know why I was surprised.
Reece worked brilliantly on stage with the whole cast but I wouldn’t be doing opening night justice if I didn’t give praise to his ability to go completely off script with Linda Lucardi, who plays the Wicked witch, yet keep the story going in some sort of direction with plenty of hilarity when things went a little awry. I do hope some of the blunders are worked in to the rest of the shows because it was without a doubt hilarious and the part my boys keep talking about, I just hope the scarecrow can still walk straight today!
As briefly mentioned Emmerdale’s Linda Lusardi plays the very glamorous and rather sexy Wicked Witch and she is every bit as amazing as you would hope she is. She clearly loved every minute of being in the show and managed to create a a lovable baddie that was evil enough for the audience to take a dislike to her but friendly enough that the children weren’t scared when she came on stage but instead wanted to get involved and boo her, creating a fantastic atmosphere.
The entire cast was amazing but special mentions have to go to the children and the dog (yes there was a real dog). They say never work with animals and children but St. Helens Theatre proved that saying wrong. The children from Dance Dynamix and LMSOD were incredible, not only performing such wonderful routines but their courage and professionalism is remarkable and you would have never known it was opening night from their faultless dance moves. There must have been some very proud parents, grandparents and teachers in the audience last night.
Toto was played by 5 year old Buddy, a Jack Russel X Chihuahua X Yorkshire Terrier, which I must say was a real treat to see him up on stage and in so many scenes. He was not only adorable but so remarkably calm despite the noise and number of people, a credit to his owner that’s for sure.
The Wizard of OZ is an old classic that still appeals to children today making this the perfect choice for a family pantomime and I doubt there is a production team in the land that could do it better, it really was a fabulous show from start to finish and one I highly recommend.
I also want to point out that if, like us, you watched The Wizard of Oz at St. Helens Theatre Royal last year then do not let that stop you from booking to go again this year for fear of watching the same thing twice, as there is a whole new cast, with a different script and apart from the Wizard of Oz classics you wont recognise the songs from last year either. It is a completely different show in every sense of the word, yet just as incredible as last years, so if you loved that then definitely book to go again this Easter, you will not be disappointed.
Ticket are available for The Wizard of Oz at St. Helens Theatre until 22nd April so why not go for an Easter treat that will be remembered for years to come.
(We were invited down to opening night in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. )