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Wizard Of Oz credit Darren HopesCIA

The Wizard Of Oz Photo: Darren Hopes

Southbank Centre turns green for Wizard

First Published 17 April 2008, Last Updated 21 April 2008

The Royal Festival Hall will turn a shade of green this summer as it presents a brand new stage production of L Frank Baum’s classic tale The Wizard Of Oz from 23 July to 31 August (press night 29 July).

Bathed in an emerald-green light and with a yellow brick road guiding visitors to its entrance, the Royal Festival Hall will recreate the land of magic and munchkins for the run of the show, which is the first major production of The Wizard Of Oz in London for 20 years.

Directed by the Southbank Centre’s Artistic Director Jude Kelly, the musical is a new production of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s 1987 version of the story, which closely follows the 1939 MGM movie. The classic film made a star of Judy Garland, who played Dorothy, the young girl transported by a hurricane from her drab Kansas homeland to the technicolour world of Oz. In order to get home, she and her dog Toto follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City to meet the Wizard, encountering both friends and foe along the way.

The cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, the Wicked Witch of the West and all the other famous characters will be depicted on stage by a cast of 30 in this new production, which also features a 20-piece band. Arlen and Harburg’s score includes the classic songs Somewhere Over The Rainbow, We’re Off To See The Wizard and Follow The Yellow Brick Road.

Kelly’s many directorial stage credits include Singin’ In The Rain at Sadler’s Wells, which won the 2001 Outstanding Musical Production Laurence Olivier Award, On The Town for English National Opera and Carmen Jones at the Royal Festival Hall last year. She previously directed The Wizard Of Oz at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2002.

“The Wizard Of Oz has left an indelible impression on over four generations,” commented Kelly. “From its beginning as an American folk-fairy tale, it has grown into something that lies at the very heart of what we feel about courage and homecoming. With its stunning visual iconography, glorious music, and the unabashed vulnerability of its cast of characters – be they lions, wizards or men of tin – it fulfils the evergreen role of a true classic. I’ve directed The Wizard Of Oz once before, and the great thing about it is that it responds equally well to the imagination of theatre making as to the wonderful technicolour of film.”

No casting has yet been confirmed.

CB

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