CRITICS sit through all sorts of worthy productions in the name of art but then a show like The Wiz comes along as a reminder that theatre can be fun too.
The Wiz’s African American take on the Wizard of Oz has long been due a revival, and this exuberant and intelligently staged show full of soul and gospel really does it justice.
"Another unusual part of this show is the amateur community ensemble drawn from the best young singers and dancers in Leeds. They bring incredible zest to the stage."
All the elements of the Oz story are present and correct, but this is a musical with a message as it was written in the aftermath of the murder of Dr King, the struggles of civil rights movement, and the idea of a black man being in the White House still a fantasy.
But this show is also a celebration the huge contribution our own black community have made to our nation and to our musical culture.
The new idea in this production is whether Dorothy can make her way back to Leeds – see what they did there – with the help of the cowardly Lion, the Tinman and the Scarecrow whilst dealing with Evilene, the Wicked Witch of the West.
X Factor’s Treyc Cohen is not quite the finished article as Dorothy, but she more than holds her own in a hugely experienced cast.
Treyc really nails the show-stopping 'Home' with her huge voice, and has had a lucky escape from the Cowell pop sausage factory. There's a bright future for her in musical theatre.
Olivier Winner Clive Rowe’s huge personality anchors the show playing the Lion with just the right edge of camp charm, and this hirsute friend of Dorothy is in magnificent voice on a touching rendition of 'Mean Ole Lion'.
Wayne Robinson’s booming voice lifts the roof off during I Was Born the Day Before Yesterday, but he also captures the vulnerability of the brainless Scarecrow. Equally effective is Horace Oliver giving the Tinman a jerky courage and real heart.
Another unusual part of this show is the amateur community ensemble drawn from the best young singers and dancers in Leeds. They bring incredible zest and well-drilled dance moves to the stage, but are particularly effective as the chorus in the spine tingling Brand New Day. I’ve seen way worse hoofers in professional touring companies and we will be seeing a lot more of some of these young stars.
Throw in a sparkling comedy turn from Melanie La Barrie as hopeless witch Addaperle backed by Allyson Ava-Brown as a suitably over the top Eveline, and you have a pitch prefect cast that is on top form after its run in Birmingham.
The Wiz is a hugely entertaining show packed full of showstoppers which is the mark of a great musical, delivered by top flight performers with voices to match a demanding score.
The only thing left to do is get a ticket and Ease on Down The Road to the land of Oz.
The Wiz runs until 16 July and tickets are available from West Yorkshire Playhouse on 0113 213 7700 or book online at www.wyp.org.uk.