A lifestyle blog all about Birmingham, UK.

Friday, 30 November 2018

REVIEW: The Wizard of Oz, The REP Birmingham

A Christmas production I look forward to each year is The REPs. Every year, it celebrates a Christmas classic - but with a twist, or two. This year is no different, with The Wizard of Oz on stage at the theatre until mid January, and believe me when I say it is an absolute must see. In fact, if you do anything in Birmingham this festive season, make sure this is top of your list...

Being one of my favourite stories of all time, I'm always optimistic about seeing The Wizard of Oz on stage, almost in fear that I won't love it as much as the original. However, Liam Steel's production is not simply the story that we all know on stage, it has been completely transformed with every aspect of the production completely re-imagined. 

The production still very much follows the same story line which follows Dorothy make her way to the Emerald City to meet the Wizard of Oz, whilst making friends along the way; the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion. Of course, the gang is joined by the adorable Toto, played by both a wonderful real dog on stage as well as a puppet, which got the audience aww-ing and ooh-ing every time they arrived onto the stage. 

However, the play is brought to life by the new touches, which made the show one of the most creative productions I have seen in a long time. The creative touches include The Munchkins being brought to life in puppet form, neon door frames, yellow steps to represent the brick road and huge spooky figures which scared even the oldest audience members. The actual Wizard is a huge figure with big green eyes - but it turns out to be an hilarious woman behind the facade, which the audience immediately fell in love with. 
To say that the cast of this wonderful show are talented would be a total understatement. The role of Dorothy was played by Chisara Agor, who managed to get the adorable and naive nature of her character down to a T. The lovable Scarecrow was taken on by Ed Wade, the Tin Man was brought to life with cool dance moves by Dillon Scott-Lewis and the terrifying Wicked Witch of the West was played by the brilliant Jos Vantyler, who managed to combine a classic panto baddie with your worst nightmare. However, the stand out performer of the show for me was by far the Lion, played by Kelly Agbowu. Not only did she play the Lion scared of its own tail incredibly well, she also had an amazing voice which really helped bring some of the musical numbers to life.  

With all of its twists and turns, this production of the classic story still kept many of the original songs in the mix, meaning the audience could enjoy and sing along with the likes of Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead, We're Off to See the Wizard and of course, Over the Rainbow. The songs really helped bring the show to life and combine the old with the new brilliantly. 

The production's scenes changed smoothly and from one extreme to the next, the show really had a huge amount of creativity in it from start to finish, making it impossible to even take your eyes off the stage, with so much colour and fun taking place at all times. As well as the staging itself, the costumes were breathtaking, from simple fashion in Kansas to shock factor outfits in Oz. It was clear from the start of the show that this adaptation of The Wizard of Oz is for a new generation. 

However, although it is a much more imaginative take on the classic story, the meaning remains the same; there really is no place like home. At Christmas time especially, the message is timeless and that is why no matter how many adaptations of the Wizard of Oz there may be, it still remains one of the best stories of our time. 

The Wizard of Oz is on stage at The REP until January 13th, 2019. 

Rating: 10/10


Saturday, 24 November 2018

REVIEW: The Nutcracker, Birmingham Hippodrome

Birmingham is packed full of Christmas traditions, which we all love to get stuck in with. But nothing quite says Birmingham tradition like the return of Birmingham Royal Ballet's The Nutcracker. Now in its 28th year, The Nutcracker simply gets bigger and better every single year. Each year more magical than the last, there's nothing like it to get you ready for the festive season.

Birmingham Royal Ballet's The Nutcracker, which was created by Sir Peter Wright shortly after Birmingham Royal Ballet was founded in 1990, has seen huge success for many years, with sell-out runs and high praise for every single show.

Alongside Tchaikovsky's timeless score, the story begins on Christmas Eve at the home of the Stahlburn family, who are hosting a huge lavish party for all their family and friends. Their 15 year old daughter Clara is training to be a dancer and her friends from the ballet school are invited to perform for the guests.

A magician, Drosselmeyer, was also invited to perform fascinating tricks to the party attendees. Clara is gifted with a Nutcracker doll, and becomes fascinated with it. She truly believes that it has magical powers, and it is confirmed when the doll fixes itself after her brother breaks it.
After the party is over, the family retire to bed, but unable to sleep, Clara heads downstairs looking for her Nutcracker doll. But as the clock strikes midnight, strange things start to happen and the whole room grows around her, before a hoard of giant rats attack Clara. Thankfully, The Nutcracker springs to life and defends her.

Clara is then whisked away by Drosselmeyer to a magical world. In a grand hall, Clara is treated to several incredible performances, where she gets to join in with many of the dances, before being transformed into the Sugar Plum Fairy. The dancing reaches its climax before the dream world completely vanishes and Clara wakes up on Christmas morning at the foot of her Christmas tree.

As well as the hugely talented dancing from the Ballet's ensemble, what really brings The Nutcracker to life is the pure magic in every single scene. From the Christmas tree and fireplace transformation, to the magical snow scene and Clara's sail across the night sky on a giant swan, the whole show is simply beautiful and a real festive feast for the senses, and completely opens up your imagination.

The dancers were simply wonderful. Each and everyone of them were fantastic. However, Karla Doorbar, who took on the role of the heroine Clara, was outstanding, as was the Sugar Plum Fairy, performed by Momoko Hirata, and The Prince, played by Cesar Morales, who put on a truly breathtaking performance.
If you're not already in the festive spirit, you certainly will be after enjoying a night at The Nutcracker. It is beautifully charming, elegant and enchanting. Christmas is a wonderful time for all of us, but this show adds that extra sprinkle of magic to the festive season. 

The Nutcracker is on stage at the Birmingham Hippodrome until Thursday, December 13th. 

The Nutcracker: 10/10
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