The latest offering from New Street Theatre currently playing at the Lakeside Theatre in the grounds of Nottingham University is The Wiz and is directed by Martin Berry. Berry is a talented and passionate professional director who likes to shake things up a little theatrically and this time he brings his magic touch to bear by bringing the American story to Nottingham with a little touch of Kansas thrown in for Dorothy's sake.
The storyline is as light as one of Mary Berry's cakes but just as colourful and full of exciting ingredients with added sparkles. The musical mood is Mowtown and the dance styles mainly Northern Soul. Costumed in some fab 1970's costumes that look right in detail, not just a parody parade, the main all singing all dancing ensemble light up the stage each time they appear.
Choreographer Rebekah Roberts does a sterling job in keeping the dance styles authentic to the time. There is so much talent and youthful energy in the company overall and even the pet Toto gets up to dance in the finale. Toto is a minor miracle on four legs, undeniably cute and has moves to die for!
Young Lennon Bradley is one of the stars of this piece as the cowardly lion. His mature performance is full of confidence, energy and the right amount of cheeky lad that endears the audience to his glowingly obvious talent. It is a joy to witness Bradley display such contained and often unconstrained humour and in the next moment be truly pathetic in the best sense of the word. This boy is one to watch out for. He has hidden inside him a mighty roar.
Charlotte Louise Brailsford excels as the lead character Dorothy. She has a compelling persona, is a terrific dancer and has a beautifully clear voice demonstrating a strong talent for clarity in the lyrics. This isn't always the case even with established singers but for this reviewers ears and enjoyment - hearing the actual words of the song sung with sentiment - works so much better than just producing the sounds and notes of the song.
Sian Elise Langley has a wonderfully dry sense of humour as the shy scarecrow desperate to get a brain and clearly revels in her considerate love and talent for dance. Her scarecrow with an afro is very lovable particularly when her character mentally transforms towards the end of the show. This is another performance in The Wiz that sparkles with energy and enthusiasm.
Professional singer and musician Ritchie Stainsby is totally charming as the scooter riding tinman in search of a heart. Stainsby has oodles of heart and soul already and his performance is a perfectly balanced blend of laid back comedy, pathos and accentuated through his mellow singing styles and guitar work. This a performance where every entrance warms the very ventricles and gets the audience's hearts pumping.
The Wiz himself is brought to life in a solid manly performance by Mark Coffrey Bainbridge an actor/singer that has proved his theatrical versatility in such previous roles as Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music, Emmet in Legally Blonde – the musical and even the scary voice of man eating plant Audrey 2 in Little Shop of Horrors. In this version of The Wiz that has all of the performers speaking and singing in their own Nottingham accents it is unusual that the Wiz character speaks with an American accent in his early scenes. There is a very good reason for this which becomes clear as the story unfolds.
Well, a story based on The Wizard of Oz wouldn't be much good without some powerful witches and they don't get much better than New Street Theatre's brassy and altogether badass Evillene (Alleisha Furlange – Royal) who, with a naughty glint in her eyes and a threatening thwack of her ruler, dominates the stage the second she appears and belts out the song No Bad News.
On the side of good and hope we have Becki Scollick as Addaperle. Scollick not only displays a gift for understated comedy as Addaperle but also makes two of the many songs in The Wiz her own with her interpretations of He's The Wiz and Believe In Yourself. Toto must be very proud.
The superb live band under the musical director Katherine Tye bring musical dynamism to this terrific show at Lakeside and the whole ensemble and the creative work that has gone into its creation and performance make it a definite one to go see. It has heart, it has courage in its adaptation and it is a no brainer for a good fun night at the theatre. Now just you Ease On Down That Road to Lakeside Theatre Nottingham.
For performance dates and times click your silver heels three times and then click this LINK.
Photo credits copyright Mark James.