Well it’s that special time of the month again, when the NAFN says enough to the soul-crushing art installations and self-hate seminars, and sends me down to the Lakeside Arts Theatre for a non-stop night of funk. That’s right – The Wiz (Lakeside’s take on that now iconic novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz) has just finished its 2 week run, and oh what a run it must have been.
Now if you’re having a hard time mentally separating this production from that nightmarish film adaptation which cast a spell on the world back in 1939, I can fully relate. But you really should try to make that imaginative leap, because the two things really are in different leagues. Where once this magical narrative lay in a mire of poor lip-syncs and cringe-worthy 70s FX, now a 2 hour spectacle has taken root and flourished, ready for the World stage. And yes, that may be my bias towards the familiar faces from the Nottingham musicals scene speaking, but I genuinely challenge you to find flaws in this production.
The cast starred Charlotte Brailsford, who managed to achieve a particularly effervescent Dorothy thanks to her pipes and extremely contagious giggle. Alongside her also shuffled Sian Langley’s shape-cutting, socially awkward Scarecrow and Leonard Bradley’s cowardly Lion (who was particularly notable thanks to his oh-so-suave quiff as he kung-fued around the stage). And Ritchie Stainsby’s Tinman also definitely contributed a certain wonderful swave to the performance with his general cockney-jive and dapper attire; but just wait till you see the flashiness which Mark Coffey-Bainbridge manages brings to the table as the glorious Wiz – because it’s mesmerising.
Together they really did prove to be an explosion of energy, and for such a high-intensity performance, you almost ended up expecting to see at least a couple of trips, corpses or wig malfunctions. Maybe even a few Grade 2 violinists striking the occasional bum harmony. But somehow the company held their nerve throughout this exhausting field trip of a musical. So strap in fellow audience members, because the urge to jump up and join in did become rather overwhelming during The Wiz. I mean, they did spontaneous dance battles and everything!
And even though The Wiz completed its 2 week run on the 25th of July, that certainly doesn’t mean we can’t demand a return. After all, the costume wardrobe straight out of every 70s sitcom you’ve ever seen surely merits a recall! Plus, the cast seemed more-than-exhilarated on their run-down pub set, so I’d bet we’re only one set of happy customers away from seeing a revival. And with that company, what a revival it would be.