Review: The Wizard of Oz from KD Theatre Productions

(Press Tickets) A pantomime in Spring? Oh no it’s not, oh yes it is, and why not? We all need to laugh whatever the season and the KD Theatre production of The Wizard of Oz delivers jokes by the bucketful. I was invited to the first night at Harlow Playhouse with my daughters (age 6 and 10) and we all enjoyed the performance.

Wizard of Oz on stage at Harlow Playhouse a pantomime review
We saw the opening night of The Wizard of Oz tour at Harlow Playhouse

Review of The Wizard of Oz 

I can be a little wary of pantomimes because the bad ones make me cringe and the jokes can be uncomfortable. Luckily this production didn’t leave me squirming in my seat. There were a few adult jokes, but when it’s a pantomime with a Dame called Fanny Galore that’s not really surprising. We found that either the ruder jokes went over my children’s heads or they understood them and found them funny, which is just the right balance. 

The production has everything you expect from a good pantomime: slapstick humour, songs, a baddie to boo and hiss, “she’s behind you” jokes… there was even a pantomime cow, although it walked on it’s hind legs and could dance Gangnam style.

At 10 my eldest daughter sometimes likes to think she is too cool for this sort of thing. In fact earlier in the day she suggested she was going to play on her phone (she quickly found out I had rather strong views on that). The modern cultural references throughout including TikTok dances quickly warmed her up. I imagine there were numerous references which went over the older generations head, but there were plenty of jokes for everyone.

As can be expected on a first night in a local theatre there was a warm response from the audience. A good number of the crowd were warmed up from the moment Fanny Galore walked on stage and by the end nearly everyone was joining in the cheers, jeers and dance moves. Which reminds me, I really need to teach my 6 year old the Macarena. 

Press image from KD theatre productions of Wizard of Oz
Dorothy with Tin Man, Lion and Scarecrow from the KD Theatre Production of The Wizard of Oz - Press Image

The Cast of The Wizard of Oz (KD Theatre Productions Ltd)

It’s a small cast of 8 with the named characters of: Dorothy, Glinda Galore, The Wicked Witch of The West , Lion, Tin Man and Scarecrow (who also play farmhands Tom, Dick and Harry) and a hard working supportive ensemble of 3 who had so many costume changes that it’s a wonder they kept on top of them. Oh and there was Toto of course, a small part, but the cute dog played by Hugo stole the show every time he trotted on stage. 

The trio of sidekicks for Dorothy (Lion, Tin Man and Scarecrow) obviously enjoyed their parts and fully embraced their characters. Tom Booth’s Lion is clearly influenced by Bert Lahr’s Cowardly Lion from the Judy Garland film, but that’s no bad thing. Tin Man played by Terry Burns is a luvvie who wants to be back on stage, if only he had a heart (I think there may be a joke in that). The scatty Scarecrow is brought to life by Ben Parsley. Scarecrow is a fun character which can get away with pretty much anything. He could pull off making up lines and moves without anyone realising, although that requires a level of talent to get pull off which Ben clearly has so I don't think any of us would spot if he did ad lib. 

If I was going to be super critical I would say there were a few very minor issues with blocking, a couple of late entrances and a line that was fluffed. Given it was the first night that’s pretty good going (I’ve been in plays where there have been more problems on the last night).

With more than 20 dates ahead of them on the tour the performances will only get more polished and they have made a brilliant start. The cast are strong enough that they will bring fresh energy to each performance and bounce off the audience so while performances get slicker I doubt they will get stale.

Press Image of Glinda Galore played by Fanny Galore
Glinda Galore played by Fanny Galore - Press Image

What Age Is It Suitable For?

If your child is able to sit still(ish) for the performance and not repeatedly kick the chair in front then they should enjoy it. The run time was just under 2 hours including a 20 minute interval. Our 7pm evening performance was a little late for my 6 year old and she noticeably flagged in the second half, but most of the show times are earlier in the day. 

Our verdict?

The performance will get you clapping, dancing, laughing and shouting out at the stage. It’s great fun for all the family and worth checking out for a performance near you. 

The 2022 tour dates for Wizard of Oz are:

* 1st - 5th April - Harlow Playhouse

* 7th - 8th April - The Maltings, Ely

* 9th April - Thameside Theatre, Grays

* 10th April - Castle Theatre Wellingborough

* 13th April - Lighthouse Theatre, Kettering

* 14th April - New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth

* 15th April - Camberley Theatre

* 16th April - Trinity Theatre, Tunbridge Wells

* 17th April - Whiterock Theatre, Hastings

* 23rd April - Civic Theatre, Stourport

* 24th April - Grange Theatre, Northwich

* 30th April - 1st May - Radlett Centre

* 28th May - The Atkinson, Southport

* 29th May - Birmingham Old Rep

* 30th May – Bridlington Spa

* 1st June – Harlequin Theatre, Redhill

* 3rd June – Marina Theatre, Lowestoft

* 4th June – Towngate Theatre, Basildon

* 5th June – Albany Theatre, Coventry

The Wicked Witch of the West press image from kd theatre productions
Wicked Witch of The West - Press Image

Harlow Playhouse

This was my first visit to Harlow Playhouse and we were able to park less than a minutes walkaway in the Harvey Centre car park. It’s a lovely theatre with a good size auditorium. Not too steep and it looks like decent visibility from all the seats. The bar sells a good range of drinks including draft beer and cocktails and it has a lively modern feel. I look forward to going back soon. The Pantomime Cinderella starts 1st December and tickets are already on sale. 

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