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

Contributor

Mark Fisher

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
'Hackney Empire gave me love – I got married on stage to my panto director'
Sharon D Clarke, Robert Hastie, Michael Buffong and more share memories of the theatres that welcomed and inspired them

Compiled by Chris Wiegand

17, Jul, 2020 @5:00 AM

Article image
Plan your week’s theatre: top tickets
Leeds goes Strictly Ballroom, Sweet Charity is revived in Manchester and the Donmar’s astonishing Shakespeare Trilogy continues

Lyn Gardner

28, Nov, 2016 @7:00 AM

Article image
The best theatre of Christmas 2017 – from Treasure Island to Guys and Dolls
Romance and adventure abound as Rhys Ifans plays Scrooge, Guys and Dolls hits Harlem and Sherlock returns

Lyn Gardner

02, Dec, 2017 @6:00 AM

Article image
The Wizard of Oz review – carnivalesque trip down the Yellow Brick Road
Catwalk-ready costumes, expressive puppetry and a knockabout cast make this a fun, if rather cluttered, production

Ryan Gilbey

25, Nov, 2022 @7:00 PM

Article image
The best festive shows this Christmas
Go to the north pole with Doctor Who, boo Jerry Hall as a wicked queen, watch Dustin Hoffman woo Judi Dench, and finish it all off with sprout ice-cream … we pick the best of the festive fun

Guardian critics

23, Nov, 2014 @4:00 PM

Article image
The Wizard of Oz review – thrilling staging, tremendous performances
Dorothy turns eco-warrior, seeking justice in an unjust world, in this visually exciting production of the children’s classic

Mark Fisher

01, Dec, 2019 @2:14 PM

Article image
The Snow Queen review – whirl through Scarborough's winter wonderland
Polly Lister plays umpteen parts in this spirited Hans Christian Andersen adaptation filmed at Stephen Joseph theatre

Chris Wiegand

06, Jan, 2021 @9:26 AM

Article image
Toto recall: the Wizard of Oz hits the West End

The Wizard of Oz musical is about to open in London. Why is its director so worried about the audience throwing shoes, asks Maddy Costa

Maddy Costa

27, Feb, 2011 @9:59 PM

Article image
Watch out for snowball-firing robots! 25 of the best UK stage shows this Christmas
Ian McKellen in Mother Goose, Robin Hood as a rock’n’roll panto, a circus spin on The Little Prince and glitter galore … it’s our selection box of festive theatre

Chris Wiegand Stage editor

09, Nov, 2022 @1:13 PM

Article image
Not just for Christmas: panto cancellations threaten theatres' future
They fill the coffers, nurture audiences and enable venues’ other activities. Pantomimes are pivotal for the UK stage industry – a year without them could be catastrophic

Chris Wiegand Stage editor

05, Aug, 2020 @12:55 PM