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Fresh take on The Wizard of Oz to run at The Watermill Theatre this Christmas

The Watermill Theatre will present a new fresh take on The Wizard of Oz this Christmas.

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L. Frank Baum’s iconic novel will be brought to the stage by Marietta Kirkbride (Five Children and It, The Egg), director Georgie Staight (Camp Albion, The Watermill), and composer and musical director Nick Barstow (From Here to Eternity, West End).

The Wizard of Oz will play at the Watermill from 17 November – 31 December 2023.

Making up the cast are Angela Caesar as Westly/The Wizard/Aunt Em , Sally Cheng as Scarrow, Chris Coxon as Tinman, James Gulliford as Lionel, Annabel Marlow as Dot and Signe Larsson making her professional debut as Glenda/PA/Dance Captain.

Dot is a dot of a girl stuck in a small town with dreams beyond her family’s comprehension, with nothing but her little dog Toto for company.

With her Auntie Em constantly being tired, leaving Dot to do all of the chores, her world is a dull grey, if only she could be somewhere, anywhere else…

Dot’s life goes from grey to technicolour after her beloved dog Toto leads her through a storm that lands them in a strange and miraculous land full of witches and wizards and unusual creatures.

With her new trio of friends Tinman, Scarrow and Lionel, Dot heads to the Emerald City in search of the magical Wizard to help her find Toto and return home.

However, it is not so easy, her journey is a tumultuous one, riddled with danger and destruction as she is trailed by wicked witch Westly – who will stop at nothing to get her hands on Dot’s magic shoes…

The Wizard of Oz will be directed by Georgie Staight with composition and musical direction by Nick Barstow, design by Sophia Pardon, lighting design by Ali Hunter, sound design by Anna Short, movement direction by Sarah Golding with costume supervisor Hannah Gilbert, CSM Cat Pewsey, DSM Bethany Jefferies, Rehearsal ASM Natalie Toney and ASM Josette Shipp.

Adaptor Marietta Kirkbride says: “L. Frank Baum s children s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is brilliantly surreal and surprising romp of a story, full of politics, jeopardy, and fantastic characters. When I was first invited to dream up a version for The Watermill, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it!

“Much of what I love about adaptation, and of taking old stories and rethinking them anew, is discovering the sticky bits – those parts of the story which no longer fit with how we see the world now because culture and collective awareness have moved on since the time it was written. This is often where the secret to reviving a story lies. I ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a young person now, with the world how it is and the future seemingly so ominous and uncertain. I felt that Dorothy as a character needed updating, as did her opinions about power and the characters in charge of Oz. So, this version of the story follows Dot s (Dorothy s) development from overwhelmed, anxious teenager, to a young person with the wisdom, bravery and compassion to take on the challenges of the 21st Century.

“This production has been blessed with a brilliant creative team and exceptionally talented cast. It s been joyous working with director Georgie Staight and hearing Nick Barstow s music and songs take shape. I look forward to seeing what the company do with the script.”

For more information and tickets, visit watermill.org.uk

About the author: Josh Darvill

Josh is Stageberry's editor with over five years of experience writing about theatre in the West End and across the UK. Prior to following his passion for musicals, he worked for more than a decade as a TV journalist.