Wizard of Oz
Londonderry Music Society deliver an impressive reprisal of the children's classic
Londonderry Musical Society has a long-standing reputation for fostering the best Northern Irish amateur performing talent, and with a 49-year tenure under their belts, they have musical theatre down to a fine art.
In previous years they have attracted audiences to the Millennium Forum (or if you want to go back a bit, The Rialto), with family-friendly productions, and this year they take theatre goers on a trip to Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz. It does not fail to impress.
Dorothy and Toto's arrival in Munchkin Land is made all the more magical by the musical accompaniment throughout this production. Musical director, Maurice Kelly, brings a new score to an old favourite, and it works just fine.
Choreographed by LMS regular Vanessa Chapman, there is a infusion of tap, jazz, ballet and modern dance to appreciate, and the strong cast handle all styles with very well.
There is a well-known saying in showbiz: 'Never work with children or animals.' Too often, in amateur productions, the younger actors can find it difficult to look interested on stage. Not so in this production.
Every child in the chorus ensemble remains in character throughout, and gives their all. There is not one Munchkin out of step during the dance numbers and not a bum note is hit.
Leading lady, 16-year old Laura Brown, gives an absolutely charming performance as Dorothy. She combines just the right amount of innocence, insolence and naivety needed to play the adventurous heroine.
And - whilst we're on the subject of casting - mention must also be given to the cutest member of the cast, Denver the Dog, reprising the role of Toto: he seems relaxed and happy to be treading the boards once again (I'm told he has played Toto before). The audience are entranced by his canine obedience.
Stealing the show, however, is Kieran Connor as the Cowardly Lion. He receives the biggest laughs and has the best rapport with the audience. It would be easy to turn this character into a pantomime, slap stick clown, but Connor keeps the professional standard throughout. His voice and movement are of a calibre akin to a West End production. This - surprisingly - is his first performance with LMS, but it won't be his last.
Overall, this is an impressive production. The lead characters and ensemble cast are very strong indeed, and deliver a polished performance. It's both heart warming and uplifting. Definitely a must see.