x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

A fresh look at The Wizard of Oz

The classic tale of 'The Wizard of Oz' is coming to Madinat Theatre in Dubai, featuring a mix of international and local performers.

The cast of The Wizard of Oz. Courtesy H2 Productions
The cast of The Wizard of Oz. Courtesy H2 Productions

A London-based theatre company is bringing one of the most famous fantasy adventure stories to the Dubai stage. The Wizard of Oz, which saw Judy Garland take on the role of Dorothy in 1939, has been made “fresh” for the Madinat Theatre audience this month by H2 Productions. We follow the director Graham Fawcett along the yellow brick road to discuss good versus evil and more than 100 years on stage.

Swept away to Oz

Following on from the success with Peter Pan and Aladdin, H2 Productions tackled recreating The Wizard of Oz, which is based on the novel by L Frank Baum that was published in 1900 and adapted to the stage in 1902. The timeless tale follows Dorothy through the land of Oz – and introduces her to an eclectic cast of characters – after being swept away in a tornado from her home in Kansas.

Mixing local and international talent

The production features eight principal actors from the UK, supported by 22 senior dancers and actors from both the UAE and UK.

Having a mixed cast of both local and international performers is vital for the company and the local theatre scene, says Fawcett.

“It’s good for the audience to see the familiar faces of their friends and family on the Madinat stage,” he says. “There is an incredible level of talent available in Dubai, which is why we always hold open auditions so everyone who wants to be in the show has the same opportunity.”

Following the different characters – Scarecrow, Tin Man, Lion and even Dorothy – reinforces the notion that there is a right path in life, too.

“And, with a little help from your family and friends you can overcome pretty much any problem you may encounter along that road,” says Fawcett.

Good versus evil

The play is aimed at the whole family and could be the first time some children, or perhaps adults also, are exposed to theatre – let alone The Wizard of Oz. H2 Productions aims to capture enough of their imagination with the good-versus-evil tale so they will want to return.

“By stepping ‘over the footlights’ and including the audience in the story, giving them the chance to boo and hiss the baddie, to cheer and clap the good guys, to laugh out loud at the antics of the comical characters and to feel as part of the action as the actors themselves, something you can’t really do sat in front of the TV or a DVD.”

The Wizard of Oz starts tonight and runs until December 31 at Madinat Theatre, Souk Madinat Jumeirah. Timings vary. For tickets, which cost Dh165, go to www.madinattheatre.com or www.timeouttickets.com

melshoush@thenational.ae