The Wizard of Oz: ha ha ha, ho ho ho, and a couple of huge faux pas?

March 3, 2011

It’s very strange when a new show comes out, as the trickle of feeling about it from tweets and preview-goers can give you a real sense of whether it has come together or not. I have followed The Wizard of Oz, like most people, since Over the Rainbow cast its star Danielle Hope last year, and since previews started (it officially opened on Tuesday), there has been a noticeable silence on the subject in cyberland. I expected people to be raving, but all I’ve heard is that Hannah Waddingham is AMAZING in it, and she has this INCREDIBLE song, and WE LOVE HANNAH WADDINGHAM. (Don’t get me wrong, I also love her, but I’m really bored of this kind of bland hype without judgement on their various performances.) So how horrified was I when this clip came to my attention; a clip of said AWESOMEAMAZINGPILEOFYAY song. The Wicked Witch’s Red Shoes Blues.

Waddy is certainly working her ass off to make the moment appealing, but the song is just… nothing. I kept waiting for it to begin. There is nothing memorable, no wow-factor about it, and some of the lyrics are pretty poor, the rhymes downright cringey. It is dire. So if this is the highlight I keep hearing so much about, I’m very concerned for the show’s fate. On top of this, a friend then posted this just-released footage from the show in general.

I had thought when some of the cast performed at the Royal Variety Show that there was something a bit repetitive, flimsy and less-than-dazzling about the material; even Danielle’s much-rehearsed Somewhere Over the Rainbow felt as if it had gone down a notch since the reality show. This video just leaves me speechless; PR footage is supposed to tempt people to the theatre, show some of the magic and leave the glorious singing stuck in our heads. Much of the costume, acting, and to some extent, the set, just look amateur in this clip. The singing (WHY always the Merry Old Land? It’s the worst part of the film, minus the horses) seems thin and lacklustre, the tempo odd. The hurricane moment looks like making the best of a bad job, and the Emerald City costumes are unshamedly, obviously ripped off from Wicked‘s. But without any of its dark, grotesque edge (and soul-stirring score.) It appears to be truly, truly dire.

Now, I must emphasize that I am saying it LOOKS dire. You can’t deliver a damning review without having been to see the show, and it has largely received 3 stars or more from critics (maybe they felt Andrew didn’t deserve two critical flops in a row). But the people whose job it was to put this together had one objective: to show the best bits, and leave people wanting more. They left me mildly shocked that so much money has been spent on this, and fairly glad I hadn’t booked tickets already. PR fail doesn’t quite cover it.


3 Responses to “The Wizard of Oz: ha ha ha, ho ho ho, and a couple of huge faux pas?”

  1. Tom Says:

    Hannah Waddingham definitely is the best thing in it, and her song is a highlight, but only because the other new songs are so awful. To be fair, that clip doesn’t show that the song carries on, after a short musical interlude, to have a bigger finish, but she still deserves much more. The sets were fab and the Winkie’s rather attractive… But it isn’t going to be most amazing thing to hit the West End unfortunately.

  2. Catherine Says:

    From that clip it seems a bit generous to even call Red Shoes Blues a song; it feels like it is just the beginning of a bigger musical number that never materialises. If that is the best of the new songs then it makes me wonder what the value was of adding new numbers at all.

    As for the promotional material, I think it is a badly assembled montage of clips rather than necessarily a fair reflection of the production because it doesn’t seem to add up with what the critics have been saying, although as you rightly say it is impossible to judge without seeing the show. It actually depresses me a little bit that somebody was probably paid a lot of money to produce that. I am curious to see the show at some point after watching Over the Rainbow on TV (proof if any were needed of the success of Mr Lloyd Webber’s shrewd marketing tactics) but I certainly won’t be in any rush.

  3. Abby Says:

    Just got round to reading this, you’re right, it really doesn’t look good! To be honest I’ve never been a big fan of the Wizard of Oz, the film has that old school charm but the songs aren’t that great and its just a bit frothy for me. Though, as a darker and deeper story with much better characters and songs,I love Wicked. It was obviously going to be competition to the WoO but surely the answer wasn’t to copy parts of it and then do it badly! The Emerald City and other bits of the staging look exactly the same but a bit more amateur and yeah that witches song was a massive disappointment. I would quite like to have seen it because I loved the show and voted for Danielle but I wasn’t sure I was willing to pay the ticket price and after seeing that, I know I’m not.

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