The Wonderful Wizard of Oz review – a joyful romp

Tron theatre, Glasgow
Johnny McKnight’s irreverent and very funny panto is full of local colour and packed with put-downs – though never at the expense of the original film

Hollywood repeats itself, first as musical, second as panto. If you have never imagined Dorothy in drag, well, you have never reckoned on Johnny McKnight, the spangly gold standard of pantomime dames, swapping denim for gingham and following the yellow brick road out of Tronsis. It stretches only as far as the West End of Glasgow but packs in a dust-storm of diversions en route.

Somehow the writer, director and star takes one of cinema’s most sensitive tales and makes it raucous, irreverent and very, very funny. And he does so without mocking the original. In fact the movie is about the only thing that doesn’t get mocked in a show packed with put-downs of everything from rival Christmas shows to Alan Cumming in Burn, not forgetting the dazzling cast themselves.

Tyler Collins, Lauren Ellis Steele and Julie Wilson Nimmo start off as Dorothy’s red-headed children, speaking Glasgow dialect in an American deep south accent, before returning as the Scarecrow, Tin Wummin and Lion. They squeeze in sundry roles in between, part of the fun being how they mark time during costume changes; Wilson Nimmo’s transition from a sugary Good Witch to a moping Lion is a particular delight.

Best voice in the business … Katie Barnett as the Wicked Witch of the West.
Best in the business … Katie Barnett as the Wicked Witch of the West. Photograph: Eoin Carey

It is too joyful a romp to take the danger seriously, but Katie Barnett has the best Wicked Witch voice in the business, jumping octaves by the syllable as she leaps off her children’s tricycle to halt Dorothy’s progress.

Kenny Miller’s designs make bad taste look sophisticated and, if the words can get lost in Ross Brown’s songs, they nonetheless take a bright trawl through American styles from soul to 80s pop, helping the cast sidestep the MGM favourites to offer a high-energy hoedown instead.

• At Tron theatre, Glasgow, until 8 January


Mark Fisher

The GuardianTramp

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