Review: The Wizard Of Oz, New Earswick Musical Society, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York.
10 November 2004
THE wonderful Wizard Of Oz never fails to endear itself to another generation. Last night, there were children aplenty in a busy, bustling first-night house, all wishing to join Dorothy as she followed the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City. That yellow colour scheme had spread even to the programme: a bright idea!
You know the story, we all know the story of Dorothy (Nicola Pittman), the Kansas farm girl with the spangling red slippers, who is transported to Oz in a whirling, spiralling tornado, here depicted by the spinning of the farmhouse. Not before she has had time to sing Over The Rainb-ow, wide and innocent of eye and pure of singing voice, leading the ensemble in a spirited reprise.
Bang! The Good Witch (Marie Butler) makes an entrance as loud as Friday’s (and Saturday’s and Sunday’s fireworks), whereupon Dorothy encounters the Munchkins, led by Paul Bradley’s eye-catching Munchkin Mayor. Gareth Cheesman, in his first appearance for New Earswick and indeed his musical debut, takes to the stage like a duck to water, immediately humorous and warm as the stumbling Scarecrow.
This is not, however, a show only for the young ones. Director Ann McCreadie casts New Earswick stalwart Alan Rome as the Tinman, and his experience is a useful glue to bond all around him together. How he enjoys himself singing If Only I Had A Heart.
The pick of Dorothy’s three co-travellers is Steve Padfield’s Cowardly Lion. His coming timing is a delight, he uses the stage with aplomb and his voice has humorous notes to it. He gets funnier as the show progresses.
Carol Richardson’s Wicked Witch Of The West pierces the air like a screech owl with her withering laugh, Colin Dearlove’s Wizard Of Oz is suitably wizened, and Don Pears and his orchestra bring plenty of bounce to the score. Robert Readman’s scenery is one of his more basic designs, but that leaves the magic to Pittman and Padfield in particular.
Friday, 5 November 2004
Preview: The Wizard Of Oz, New Earswick Musical Society, November 9 to 13
Just A Quickie with… Gareth Cheeseman, The Scarecrow in New Earswick Musical Society’s The Wizard Of Oz.
Will this be your first appearance on stage?
“I’ve been on stage once before but that was in a concert.”
Are you originally from York?
“No. I come from Rugby. I came to York because of the university and I stayed because I liked it here, which is the best of reasons. Also, there are plenty of activities to become involved in.”
“Well, I’m a musician. I’ve played viola in various orchestras.”
So, your musical background will be useful in your first venture with New Earswick Musical Society?
“Yes, and I’m enjoying it. It’s a new experience for me. Teamwork is essential, just as it is in orchestral playing, where you have to be aware of what’s happening around you to produce an ensemble effect.”
How do you feel about appearing on stage with children? There are 21 Munchkins; aren’t you afraid of falling over them?
“Ha! Most of my role involves falling over! After all, I’m only a scarecrow, remember, and you don’t expect a scarecrow to be very steady on his feet. I’ve just got to make sure none of them is in the vicinity when I topple over.”
You’re quite tall. Do you think they might be a little in awe of you?
“Never. It’s the other way round. I’m amazed how confident they all seem to be. They’re so lively and so interested; and they’re not slow to tell me if I’ve made even the slightest mistake.”
So you don’t agree with that old adage: “never act with children”.
“What? And miss out on all the fun. Never!”
The Wizard Of Oz, New Earswick Musical Society, November 9 to 13, 7.30pm. Friday and Saturday performances are virtually sold out.