Veteran musicals composer Andrew Lloyd Webber’s spellbinding production of The Wizard of Oz tells the story of Dorothy and her adventures in the peculiarly enchanting Land of Oz. Based on the bestselling novel by Frank Baum, and developed from the MGM screenplay, Webber’s Wizard of Oz takes the audience on a truly magical journey that will entertain both young and old.
Throughout the musical director Jeremy Sams uses lighting ingeniously to highlight points of chaos and tranquillity. This is conveyed to the audience through the use of murky, brown colours during the first scene in Kansas, vivid colours for Munckinland and for the moment when Dorothy meets Glenda the good witch; green, red and dark colours are also used to illuminate the wicked witch’s lair. The vivid colours connote peace, green creates an eerie atmosphere and red implies danger, while the darker colours are used to connote evil and terror.
Sams exploits the colour connotations effectively to evoke appropriate emotions from audience that correlate with the scenes where a specific colour is used to light the stage. In this way the director effectively and successfully uses lighting to highlight scenes of chaos and tranquillity. It is also possible that Sams may be paying tribute to the 1939 musical fantasy film Wizard of Oz, which also makes use of the transition from murky greys to vibrant colours to emphasise Dorothy’s arrival in Munchkinland.
But it’s not only the lighting that is used to represent a change in location or atmosphere: Dorothy’s costumes are also used to present new places in the musical. An example of this is the way in which Dorothy’s costume changes colour from blue to green when she first enters the Fairyland and sets off to see the Wizard of Oz. We can infer from this that when she enters the new place her costume will change colour.
Throughout the play, costumes are used to support Dorothy’s personality, enabling the audience to gain a better idea about the kind of person Dorothy actually is. For example, Sams uses a briefcase to indicate that Dorothy is running away from home.
In addition to enabling us to connect to Dorothy’s emotions, the director uses costumes in order to make the audience feel excitement about the new places in which Dorothy finds herself. Therefore we can see how the director uses different costumes to showcase Dorothy’s personality and to generate excitement amongst the audience about the next scene.
Another way in which the production enables the audience to understand and identify with the characters is through the actors’ performance. The actor playing the Wizard alters his tone of voice in order to shows anger and annoyance at the same time. He raises his voice for dramatic effect, making the audience feel frightened, as well as the character he is addressing. However, older members of the audience may find this scene amusing rather than frightening because of the expressions that the characters portray.
The director also uses voice and the theme of subverted characters in order to effectively present the engaging, interesting and exciting story line to the audience. An example of this is when a timid lion with a deep, brave voice attempts to frighten Dorothy, The Scarecrow and TOTO. Here the stereotypical features of a lion are beautifully subverted, leading the audience intrigued at the contrasts within the character.
Overall, Lloyd Webber’s masterful production presents Dorothy’s adventures in an original way, using all the tricks of stagecraft to breathe new life into Frank Baum’s wonderful story.
Collaborative review by Year 9 Drama students at The City Academy, Hackney.