The Wizard of Oz

The Civic – THE EDGE®, Auckland

10/09/2011 - 18/09/2011

Production Details

The much loved family classic The Wizard of Oz comes to the Mighty Civic this September featuring a star-studded cast.

Raymond Hawthorne, the master of New Zealand theatre, will play the great and powerful Wizard. He will be joined byGeorge Henare, OBE, a much loved star of the stage, who will transform into the lily-livered Lion that we all know and love. Known to television audiences as Claire McLeod fromMcLeod’s Daughters and subsequently winning a Logie Award for her role,Lisa Chappell joins the cast as Glinda, the Good Witch of the South. Helen Medlyn, one of New Zealand’s foremost opera singers will conjure dread and fear as the ghastly Wicked Witch of the West. Singer, performer and entertainer Tina Cross, ONZM returns to our stage as an all-singing, all-dancing, glamorous chorus queen.

160 dogs were entered into the ‘PURINA BENEFUL Search for Toto’ competition but there could only be one winner – and though many of the dogs caught the attention and hearts of those voting, it was the little black dogPoco who walked away with the role of Toto!

More talented cast have now been confirmed: iconic radio DJ Robbie Rakete, Kristian Lavercombe (Riff Raff inThe Rocky Horror Show),Nic Kyle (Cabaret, Miss Saigon),Turanga Merito (The Lion King) andOlivia Tennet as Dorothy.       

With a strictly limited season of 10 shows only – don’t miss out on joining Dorothy and her friends on their journey down the yellow brick road. 

The Wizard of Oz plays:
10th – 18th September, 2011
The Civic, THE EDGE, 269 Queen Street, Auckland
Times: 6:30pm Tuesday – Wednesday,
7:30pm Thursday – Sunday (except 11 and 13 September)
Matinee performances:

Saturday 10 September – 2pm
Sunday 11th September – 4pm
Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th September – 2pm
Tickets: Adults from $39.90, Children from $24.90 (service fees apply)
Bookings through THE EDGE: 0800 BUY TICKETS or  

Olivia Tennet: Dorothy
George Henare: Lion
Kristian Lavercombe: Scarecrow
Nic Kyle: Tin Man
Helen Medlyn: Almira Gultch /Wicked Witch of the West
Robert Rakete: Uncle Henry /Guard
Lisa Chappell: Aunt Em /Glinda
Raymond Hawthorne: Wizard of Oz
Poco Loco: Toto
Turanga Merito: Chorus Queen
Tina Cross: Chorus Queen

1. Abigail Thuell
2. Aisling Baker
3. Alana Mcevoy
4. Alexandra Ranford
5. Alexia Carbines
6. Amelia Blackwell
7. Amelia Elliott
8. Amelia-Rose Kaiser
9. Aoife Whelan
10. Aria Andriopoulos
11. Asher Quinn Baker
12. Ashley Hook
13. Becky Stacy
14. Ben Seaton
15. Bethany Cook
16. Bjorn Byrne
17. Brenna Curtain
18. Charlie Stacy
19. Chloe Hunt
20. Claire Fellows
21. Claudia Holmes
22. Daniel Sewell
23. D’lainee Free Noonan-Brown
24. Dominique Godfrey
25. Dylan Bartholomew
26. Elena Edgar-Nemec
27. Ella Stone
28. Ella Edwards
29. Emma Self
30. Emma Austin-Mannes
31. Emma Uren
32. Erica Richardson
33. Fergus Cairns
34. Gemma Rushton
35. Grace Neely
36. Hamish Mouat
37. Holly Britton
38. Isabelle Painter
39. Jade Fernandes
40. Jade Thuell
41. Jai Byrne
42. Jasmine Thuell
43. Jessica Sewell
44. Jim Aimer
45. Kate Clough
46. Kate Laughter
47. Katherine Horner
48. Libby Frazer
49. Lily Benton
50. Louis Maze
51. Lucelis (Lucie) Everett-Brown
52. Lucy Hay
53. Meg Riegel
54. Melissa Uren
55. Michael Self
56. Michael Andre (Andre) Polines
57. Murdoch Keane
58. Nathanael Message
59. Nina Wilgar
60. Nisyola Fifita
61. Nykita Martin
62. Olivia Morrison
63. Oscar Van Druten
64. Phoebe Jasper
65. Polly Games
66. Poppy Mcdonnell
67. Priya Miller
68. Queenie Samuel
69. Rebecca Savory
70. Rheia Edgar-Nemec
71. Rochelle Johnson
72. Roisin Leckie
73. Ruby Goodyear
74. Ruby Lyon
75. Sam Kemble
76. Samantha Selby
77. Samara Blackwell
78. Sasha Jaser
79. Scarlett Jacques
80. Seamus Stalker
81. Sebastian Painter
82. Siobhan Martin
83. Stuart Webber
84. Taika Kyriak
85. Taylor Rose Doyle
86. Tegan Totterdell
87. Zara Morrison
88. Zoe Fifield

Producer:  Jesse Peach
Business Manager:  Matthew Walker
Marketing:  Michelle Lafferty, Joanna Kelly, Publicity Elephant Publicity
Director:  Jesse Peach
Designer:  John Verryt
Musical Director:  Anthony Young
Choreographer:  Jack Gray
Wardrobe Design and Construction:  Lynn Cottingham
Lighting Designer:  Jennifer Lal
Make Up and Prosthetics Design:  Abi Taylor
Wardrobe Consultant:  Elizabeth Whiting
Props:  Becky Ehlers
Publicity Designand Photography:  Oliver Rosser
Stage Manager:  Claire Dougan
Assistant Stage Manager:  Jamie Blackburn
Assistant Stage Manager:  Bex Isemonger
Season Production Manager:  Carol Harding
Production Manager:  Mitchell Turei
Production Assistant:  Chelsea Adams
Chorus Administrator:  Theresa Heneray
Chorus Manager:  Gypsy Kauta
Wardrobe Assistants:  Debbie Howard, Maryann McRae
Make up assistants:  Adrian Josephs, Shari Wosely, Jo Stephenson
Lighting Programmer:  Nathan McKendry
Lighting Operator:  Rachel Marlow
Follow spot operators:  Johnnie Mo, Moses Rauraa
Sound Operator:  Ratu Gordon
Radio Assistant:  Lora Thompson
Sponsorship Manager:  Elliott Blade
Programme Design:  Sentra Print
Animal Training:  Moontide Animal Trainers
Animal Trainers:  Rosie Miles, Bex Watts, Ange Hubert

Conductor Anthony Young
Flute Luca Manghi
Oboe Alyson Jepson
Reed 1 Andrew Uren
Reed 2 Steve Sheriff
Reed 3 Mark Dennison
Horn Jillian Christoff Emma
Trumpet Matthew Verrill
Trombone Luke Christiansen
Percussion Judy Stokes
Drum kit Chris O’Connor
Piano Rosemary Barnes
Harp Yi Jin, Susan Tong
Violin 1 Vanessa Tam
Violin 2 Minsi Yang, Coralie Usmani
Viola Mary Wilson
Cello Katherine Hebley, Robbie Drage
Double Bass Tom Dennison
Backing Singers: Jessie Cassin, Kerry Scurr, Charlotte O’Brien, Fiona Li Fen,   

A timeless classic well wrought

Review by Nik Smythe 11th Sep 2011

As the audience convenes in the auditorium, the projection of a stern elderly face peers out from a large full moon hanging in the centre of the open, empty stage. Anyone familiar with this iconic musical via the 1939 film (surely the entire adult audience and more than half the rest) will be eagerly anticipating the elaborate spectacle (and exhilarating musical score) soon to play out before our expectant eyes and ears. 

It has a lot to live up to – and now, having seen it, I am confident they will not be disappointed. Auckland’s youngest large-scale theatre veteran Jesse Peach has produced and directed an accomplished company in a delightful rendition of the best-known musical of all time. With a star-studded ‘who’s who’ line-up of central characters, young and less-young, aided by a spirited chorus numbering 88 flamboyant youths aged five to seventeen, the 111 year old tale of L. Frank Baum is faithfully crafted for our appreciation. 

Olivia Tennet is the very picture and temperament of the central character, wholesome Kansas farm-girl Dorothy. It’s clear she relishes the honour of playing the coveted lead as typified in the film’s illustrious turn by Judy Garland, bringing her all to the demanding task. Her sidekick Toto, played by lovably clever Yorkshire terrier Poco Loco, is my first experience of a live animal being cast in live theatre, and most rewarding at that. 

The remaining cast also draw heavily from the movie, particularly Dorothy’s adopted companions: the clumsy, brainless (though frequently astute) Scarecrow, brought to life by the considerable triple-A talents of Kristian Lavercombe; the heartless-yet-compassionate Tin Man (Nic Kyle) – the closest thing you’ll get to a straight man, in Oz at least; and the terrified-yet-determined Cowardly Lion a-la local legend George Henare, brilliantly portrayed with as much vitality and drive as any respectable thespian half his age. 

Besides Dorothy and Toto, all the main players have dual roles, their ‘real-life’ Kansas characters and their fantastical Oz counterparts. For the most part the latter are mirrors of the former with two exceptions: Lisa Chappell’s serious law-abiding matron Aunt Em, contrasted by her sweet, nurturing and slightly ditzy Glinda, the Good Witch of the North; and mainstream pop-culture luminary Robert Rakete, whose officious fatherly pragmatist Uncle Henry is the virtual opposite of his abject bumbling Emerald City Guard. 

Comparatively, the character of Helen Medlyn’s nasty, vindictive spinster Miss Gultch differs only in appearance from her outstanding and definitive performance as the Wicked Witch of the West; both are a joy to despise. Meanwhile the casting of local theatre patriarch Raymond Hawthorne as humbug Kansas clairvoyant Professor Marvel and the over-inflated majesty of the title Wizard is nothing short of inspired.  

Threaded throughout the eventful journey, often leading the voluminous choir, are the phenomenal chops of Chorus Queens Turanga Merito and the incomparable Tina Cross. 

For many the highlight of any musical is, fittingly, the music. Musical director Anthony Young ably conducts a praiseworthy 20-odd-piece orchestra through the venerated, immortal compositions of Harold Arlen and lyricist E. Y. Harburg. The make-or-break execution of the anthemic first song ‘Over the Rainbow’ comes across most satisfactorily, thanks in no small part to Tennet’s powerfully pure singing ability. 

The recurring thematic ‘If I Only Had A…’ numbers, the Munchkinland medley and the Lion’s wistfully operatic ‘If I Were King’ achieve similar requisite success.   It occurs to me it’s strange for a musical that the villain, i.e. the Witch, doesn’t have her own song. Presumably it would be too out of character for her express her purpose through melody and lyric as the protagonists do.

Choreographer Jack Gray is fortunate to have in the cast such a well-disposed troupe of able-bodied movers, tirelessly executing his elaborate, often vigorous arrangements. The endearing charm of the children in the Lullaby League, Lollipop Guild et al in the Munchkinland sequence carries a good deal of quaint amusement, but the real show-stopper dance-wise is the fast and furious Jitterbug routine, where Tennet in particular displays mind-blowing co-ordination and skill in tap and vaudeville-style jazz. 

There’s something of a pre-set design expectation for the play’s various archetypes, from which it seems both risky and unnecessary to deviate. The standard form has been adapted in various ways in the past but only with a fraction of the mammoth success enjoyed by the classic MGM film adaptation.   

To the trained eye, John Verryt’s set has clearly been designed and produced on a budget. The inbuilt splendour of Auckland city’s most ornate venue provides an appropriately majestic frame, inside which a less seasoned production designer might develop something tacky and mismatched in an attempt to create a sense of grandiose beyond their resources. 

Instead, Verryt’s various scenes, and the accompanying effects of Jennifer Lal’s exemplary lighting design, are revealed in consummate tasteful simplicity. The only one that leaves me wanting is the Emerald City, which I feel could have been perhaps a tad more ostentatious, shiny and emerald-like. Even then, the way cast fills the space with their boundless energy and bountiful talent render such criticism finicky nit-picking. 

Lynn Cottingham’s costume design succeeds in a similar uncomplicatedly stylish fashion, both for the leads and the extensive children’s chorus playing Munchkins, poppies and Ozian citizens among other curious peoples and creatures. 

Augmenting her good work is Abi Taylor’s outstanding make-up and prosthetic design, which particularly shines where it really counts, notably in the case of the green and grimacing Wicked Witch, and the handsome silvery trappings of the Tin Man. The Scarecrow’s leaking straw, which he continually has to stuff back inside him, is another of many pleasing touches. 

Opening night saw a few technical problems – mistimed smoke bombs, video glitches and so on. The most glaring blunder was the Wizard missing the balloon he is supposed to be aboard as it floats away leaving Dorothy stranded, prompting the amusing ad-lib ‘That idiot guard has ruined my exit!’ …It’s reasonable to assume that won’t happen again.

In essence, a timeless classic well wrought. My 9 year old boy’s favourite character was the Scarecrow. Mine was the Wicked Witch. The entire cast deserves high commendation, and all-round best loved is Toto. 
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.


Dave Wilson September 16th, 2011

I completely agree about the set in Oz feeling empty, I however disagree about the costume design for the 88 kids, it just appeared as if they were wearing multiple coloured sacks, it seemed like almost no effort had gone into the design of them. The leads costumes were absolutely stunning though, perhaps it was a budgetary concept. I felt there was a strong disorganisation of the children in scenes like Munchkinland and the Oz scenes, everything they did looked seemingly messy, choreography was not executed and any sense of form was disregarded.

However, the leads are enough of a pull to see this show and the Jitterbug sequence alone was worth the ticket price.

nik smythe September 12th, 2011

As I understand it, the Wizard is meant to be aboard the balloon, which takes off without Dorothy and Toto.  Unfortunately on opening night, it flew off without any of them.

Lucy September 12th, 2011

I think you will find the balloon scene is directly from the book and was supposed to happen....

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