REVIEW: The Wizard Of Oz, Stage Door Theatre Company at the Windmill, Littlehampton

Ben Sunderland, Dave Humphrey, David Knight and Stephanie Jolly
Ben Sunderland, Dave Humphrey, David Knight and Stephanie Jolly

In a world in which there is so much discord and suffering, there’s a refreshing innocence and simplicity about the story of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ , with its Scarecrow ( David Knight ) in search of brains , its Tin Woodman ( Ben Sunderland ) seeking a heart and its cowardly lion ( Dave Humphrey ) , all led on their adventures by an intrepid Dorothy Gale ( Stephanie Jolly , who has a lovely clear singing voice ) .

You know from the outset that whatever the machinations of the Wicked Witch ( a positively green and cackling Rebecca Halsey ) , all is going to be well in the end .

This homespun show is a vehicle for a large and enthusiastic cast including innumerable munchkins ( I lost count ! ) , the sham wizard ( Barry Tinkler ) and many others, all propelled along by jolly , familiar and reassuring music ( a good , big sound given only Michael Wooldridge and Chaz McLeod in the pit ) . Along the way , there are solidly good turns by Elana Healy as Aunt Em ( doubling as lion-tamer ! ) , a brave piece of solo ballet by Jack Chapman and some pleasing back projections , even if the opening still looked more like Norfolk in winter than America’s mid-west !

It is a good-natured and cheerfully pantomimic piece of seasonal entertainment , so you forgive some of its weaknesses – inevitable inequalities of acting skill in so large a cast , a slightly ‘baggy’ opening to the second half , some bits of “standing around and acting” , which showed up because of the disciplined choreography of the munchkins ….

But what the hell ? We were in a reassuringly homely and home-made world where sincerity of purpose shone through . “ Nothing can be amiss if simpleness and duty attend it” as the Duke says in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ when reproaching the critics of Pyramus & Thisbe , reminding us to dwell always on the many positives and sincere achievements before us . I hadn’t had the easiest of days before I saw this show – and it launched me – as it should – into Christmas …Well done .

Paul Ward