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A bright and cheerful musical favourite

PUBLISHED: 14:48 02 December 2009 | UPDATED: 17:19 16 August 2010

LAND OF OZ: (l-r) Kevin Gauntlett as the Cowardly Lion, Philip Netscher as the Tin Man, Andy Moore as the Scarecrow and Ellen Gauntlett as Dorothy.

LAND OF OZ: (l-r) Kevin Gauntlett as the Cowardly Lion, Philip Netscher as the Tin Man, Andy Moore as the Scarecrow and Ellen Gauntlett as Dorothy.

WEST Wickham Operatic Society s colourful production of The Wizard of Oz landed with a bang at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley, writes Mark

WEST Wickham Operatic Society's colourful production of The Wizard of Oz landed with a bang at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley, writes Mark Campbell.

With a huge supporting cast of Munchkins, crows, trees and flying monkeys, this was another typically ambitious show from a group that specialises in big musicals.

On the night I went, Katie Morgan played Dorothy. On alternating nights, she was played by Ellen Gauntlett, daughter of Kevin Gauntlett and granddaughter of Terry Gauntlett - all of them in the cast. Truly a family affair!

Katie was perfect in the role, with a lovely clear singing voice that was a match for Judy Garland's.

Her uncle and aunt were Pauline Gregoire and John Moore, who also doubled as the Munchkin Queen and an Emerald City guard.

The tornado scene, in which Dorothy's home is blown to Oz, was a bit of a shambles with stagehands in plain sight hauling scenery around.

And from where I was sitting, I had a good view of workers in the wings, which was distracting.

But things improved with the appearance of the gaudily attired Munchkins, including a brace of cute wee tots (cue the inevitable "ahhh").

Paul Mount was especially amusing as the falsetto-voiced Coroner, shrilly declaring the Wicked Witch of the East "most sincerely dead".

As her vengeful sister, Jacqui Morris made a splendidly venomous green-skinned Wicked Witch of the West, snarling and waving her broomstick at all and sundry. I stopped myself from booing just in time.

All the principal characters sported wonderful costumes by Charlotte and Josie Simpson.

Andy Moore was great as the loose-limbed wobbly Scarecrow, with Philip Netscher a robotic Tin Man with a fetchingly human demeanour.

Dressed in a baggy animal suit that was only vague leonine, director Kevin Gauntlett as the Cowardly Lion.

The show was a pretty faithful adaptation of the classic movie, although there were differences: such as an unfamiliar introduction to 'Over the Rainbow' and a new song, 'The Jitterbug', which gave the then-fashionable dance a sinister subtext.

There were a few too many flying effects for my tastes; clearly WWOS wanted to maximise their investment in this expensive bit of kit.

But this was a bright, cheerful Oz with jaunty musical support from John Hargreaves and his orchestra.

And in Toto, it also had an adorable little pooch that - naturally - stole every scene.

* The next WWOS production is due to be The Full Monty in May 2010. Tickets: 020 8658 5117.

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