Review: Everybody rejoice in The Wiz

Ever wondered what happened to the little girl from Kansas who journeyed along the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City?

The Wiz re-imagines an adult Dorothy on the same quest to find a brain, a heart and courage for her fellow travellers.

Matthew Walker (Scarecrow) and Ria Westhead (Dorothy) in The Wiz, presented by Handsworth & Hallam Theatre Company at The Montgomery Theatre, Sheffield.

Matthew Walker (Scarecrow) and Ria Westhead (Dorothy) in The Wiz, presented by Handsworth & Hallam Theatre Company at The Montgomery Theatre, Sheffield.

This funky, edgy version of the time-honoured tale may not have the popularity of the original or its well-known songs but it’s a dream of a show if you like your musicals with plenty of dancing and colourful characters.

There’s nothing tame about this version of the classic tale in which the Lion is seduced by humanised poppies and is arrested for being as high as a kite.

The wicked witch’s minions look like street gangs and the wizard is an evangelistic rock ‘n’ roller who gets a big piece of the action and a great song in Believe in Yourself.

Song-wise, the most familiar are Ease On Down The Road and Everybody Rejoice in which the ensemble of Handsworth and Hallam Theatre Company generate energy and the feelgood factor in their production of The Wiz this week.

Beautifully performed and spectacularly costumed, the presentation at Sheffield’s Montomery Theatre is so lively that the audience cannot resist clapping along and cheering every number.

Ria Westhead heads the cast as Dorothy, belting out fine songs en route to meet The Wiz, accompanied by very able companions Matthew Walker as Scarecrow, Andrew Stansall as Tinman and Josh Holliday as Lion. Andrew’s tap dancing is one of the high spots of the show and it’s great to see the Tinman get a bigger bite of the cherry than he does in The Wizard of Oz.

The three witches enchant the audience for very different reasons. Alison Stansall plays Addaperle as kooky and colourful, Danni Birks-Hibbert brings a whip-wielding, dominatrix look to Evilene and Katie Mather as Glenda is a vision of pure goodness in a white lace-trimmed gown.

Richard Granger cuts a dash as The Wiz in light green shoes and purple, sparkly shoes and does a miraculous disappearing act as a hot air balloon takes off.

Directed and choreographed by Claire Harriott with musical direction by Johnathon Bates. The Wiz continues its journey at The Montgomery until Saturday, June 18.