We’re off to see the Wizard! The curtain’s up on Curve’s Christmas show

Director Nikolai Foster’s re-imagined technicolour wonderland of Oz is here – and a perfect excuse to gather your friends and family for this classic Christmas musical.

By Dwija Raval

Oz you like it: Paul French (Tin Man), Jonny Fines (Scarecrow), Giovanni Spanó (Lion), Georgina Onuorah (Dorothy) and Ben Thompson (Toto). Photograph by Marc Brenner

The Yellow Brick Road has wound its way to Rutland Street, Leicester, and Curve Theatre’s revival of the much-loved story of the Wizard of Oz is shaping up to be a colourful Christmas classic.

The homegrown production, which opened last month, stars Georgina Onuorah as Dorothy, with puppeteer Ben Thompson’s four-legged companion Toto joining her on a turbulent journey from Kansas to the wonderland of Oz, a world where nothing is quite as it seems.

The reviews so far have been overwhelmingly warm. The Daily Mail called it sumptuous. British Theatre.com hailed it as “stunning, a kaleidoscopic riot of sight and sound.” What’s on Stage said it is “a smart, aural and visual joy with wonderful heart and adventurous depictions.” The Stage said there’s “plenty of magic.” The Guardian called it a “fun, if rather cluttered, production.” The Times struck a sour note, saying it lacked a heart.

Jonny Fines, known for his work in Curve’s My Beautiful Laundrette, is cast for the role of Hunk and Scarecrow, Paul French (Curve’s Grease) as Hickory and Tin Man, while Mamma Mia’s Giovanni Spanó will take play Lion.

American actor, singer and impressionist Christina Bianco is playing Glinda, Geoffrey Aymer (Curve’s The Colour Purple) as Uncle Henry, Hamlet’s Jonathan Dryden Taylor as Munchkin Coroner, Jacqui Dubois (The Harder They Came, US Tour) as Aunt Em, Andrew Patrick-Walker as Munchkin Vicar, English singer Charlotte Jaconelli appear as Ms Gulch and The Wicked Witch of the West and Mark Peachey (The Lion King, UK tour) will be seen as Professor Marvel and The Wizard of Oz.

The cast ensemble includes Andrew Dillon (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs), Martin McCarthy (Curve’s Grease), Dancer Ellie Mitchell (Cinderella), Natasha Mould (Grease, UK tour), Mervin Noronha (Greatest Days, Art is Dead), Amy Oxley (Shrek, UK tour), Christina Shand (Hairspray, UK tour), Tom Watson, Daisy West (Northern Ballet), and Charlotte St. Croix (Hairspray, UK tour).

It’s all been put together by the production manager Patrick Molony and re-imagined by Curve’s artistic director Nikolai Foster (Billy Elliot: The Musical, A Chorus Line, West Side Story).

The show is choreographed by Shay Barclay, known for her work in Cinderella (2021), Cats (2019), and Mary Poppins Returns (2018), and costumes of all characters and puppetry work are managed by costume and puppet designer Rachel Canning. Former president of the magic circle Scott Penrose brings alive magical moments on screen.

The magical setting of the story is created at the Curve by the set designer Colin Richmond, lighting director Ben Cracknell, projection designer Douglas O’Connell, and props supervisor Marcus Hall Props.

E.Y Harburg and Harold Arlon’s original songs like ‘the Yellow Brick Road’, ‘We’re off to see the Wizard’ and ‘Over the Rainbow’ from the MGM film are featured with additional music and lyrics by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. 

Guess we’re not in Kansas anymore: the cast of The Wizard of Oz. Photograph by Marc Brenner

The Wizard of Oz runs at Curve until January 8. Tickets are available online at https://www.curveonline.co.uk/whats-on/shows/the-wizard-of-oz/

Discounted tickets are £15 for under-16s/under-18s school groups, £20 for students/16-25 year-olds, and are 15% off for members. There is more information available on discounts and support on their website. The company has also organised access-friendly performances including British Sign Language interpreted, captioned, audio-described, dementia friendly and relaxed. 

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