Now I would never want to be one of the witty masses that judge those from the midlands by their hilarious accents (I am one so that would be mighty hypocritical of me) but a Motown classic lead by Treyc Cohen’s brummie twang just isn’t quite right. Especially when watching the Leeds based version of The Wiz at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. And everyone else is fake-American.
Still, Cohen wasn’t the only thing wrong with The Wiz. True, she didn’t have the voice for even amodest theatre and some notes rattled the windows (exaggeration, just my friends glasses), but the
production also suffered from a lack of bite. At just two hours including the interval, the Wicked Witch of the West was dead before I’d had a chance to wonder why the shoes were silver and not ruby. The shadow assassins were frankly embarrassing and the framing device of “Leeds” was also
lost with no heartfelt reunion to return to.
Not to say that the musical was completely lacking at all. The infectious songs really allowed the community support cast time to shine – powered by an enthusiastic, rough at the edges charm. The scarecrow, tin man and lion were the highlight for me, though it’s hard to imagine an incarnation of
The Wizard of Oz where the trio are not. Kudos to the Tin Man’s fantastic tap dance.
The real entertainment to my surprise came from the orchestra pit. George Dyer, conductor, musical director and pianist all rolled into one had more energy than a guy sat on a stool I’ve ever seen and by the end of the production our side of the theatre was exclusively watching him rather than the stage. Expertly playing and leading the rest of the band, there was never a moment when he was singing and dancing along. When the curtain fell it was this man that received the largest
All in all The Wiz was definitely entertaining, though I am predisposed to smile as soon as a hip shakes and note breaks. Easily could have been improved by a stronger lead and a more well-
The Wiz is playing at the West Yorkshire Playhouse until 16th July
Guest Review by Claudia Rowe