Book by William F. Brown
Music & Lyrics by Charlie Smalls
Running for over three years on Broadway (1975-78), The Wiz won right Tony’s including ‘Best Musical’ and became a movie starring Michael Jackson and Diana Ross.
This dazzling mix of rock, gospel and soul takes L Frank Baum’s original story and transports Dorothy, the Tinman, the Scarecrow and the Lion into a fantasy world of colourful characters and wicked witches.
Come with us and Ease on Down the Yellow Brick Road. It starts in Kansas and ends up in the Emerald City. You’ll have a ball along the way.
Spencer trained at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, gaining his B A Honours degree in Acting and Musical Theatre in 2003. His roles whilst training include Rick in A Slice Of Saturday Night (Directed by Hannah Chissick), Dance Captain in Pirates Of Penzance (Directed by Matt White) and alternate performances as Peter/Pontius Pilate in Jesus Christ Superstar at St Pauls, Covent Garden. Professional theatre credits include Conrad Birdie in Bye Bye Birdie, and Genie of The Lamp in Aladdin.
Television credits include Casualty, Doctors, Dirty Work, Berkely Square and the role of Archie in Love In A Cold Climate, all for the BBC.
Spencer is proud to have taught at many schools throughout London over the past six years, teaching all disciplines of dance and drama, and working as Manager at many of these schools. He has worked extensively as a Director and Choreographer on many shows, such as Grease, Oliver, and Bugsy Malone. Last summer Spencer Directed/Choreographed Honk! The Musical, Bye Bye Birdie, and A…My Name Is Alice at Stagedoor Manor in New York, USA.
Upon his return to London he choreographed the Premiere Party of the Cole Porter movie De-Lovely at Café de Paris.
Most recently Spencer created the lead role in a new musical that premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe this summer.
Once Spencer has finished following the yellow brick road he will tour Italy in a production of the Kander and Ebb musical Chicago, playing the role of Billy Flynn.
Huw graduated from King’s College London and piano at the Royal Academy of Music in July 2005. He was Musical Director or Assistant Musical Director to all shows for King’s Musical Theatre for the three years. Show’s included; West Side Story, Jesus Christ Superstar, Guys and Dolls, The Threepenny Opera, Anything Goes, and Into the Woods.
This is Huw’s third production with Ovation at Upstairs at the Gatehouse. He was Assistant Musical Director for both Hot Mikado and Side by Side.
Originally from North Wales, Huw travels home regularly to accompany various choirs and soloists. In 2004 he accompanied in the Welsh Mass Male Voice Choir concert at the Royal Albert Hall.
Television work includes: Compser John a Alun (Tonfedd Television Co.); Accompanist and Compser Noson Lawen (Tonfedd); Accompanist Fash’s Football Challenge (Zig Zag Production). In 2001 he was awarded the Business in the Community Wales Award, for outstanding achievement, through which he received a week’s work experience on Les Miserables, at the Palace Theatre, London.
Huw currently coaches Musical Theatre Rep at various Performing arts Colleges in London.
Julia graduated from LAMDA in 2003. Lighting design credits include: Perrier Nominated What’s the time Mr Lion, David Benson’s Conspiracy Cabaret (Edinburgh Festival 2005), Side By Side By Sondheim, Hot Mikado (Upstairs at the Gatehouse), Loot, Habeas Corpus, Stags and Hens (Linbury Studio, LAMDA), Gone, The Consultants and Jeremy Lion’s Happy Birthday (Edinburgh Festival 2004/ New Ambassadors), David Benson’s Haunted Stage (Edinburgh 2004), Losing it (Soho Studio), Macbeth (Questors Studio).
As a technician: Big Day Out (The Hen and Chickens), Elephant Women (New Ambassadors), The Sunday Club (The Hen and Chickens).
As Stage Manager: Richard Alston Dance Company (Autumn & Spring Tours from 2003-2005), Victory! A musical for Peace (Donmar Warehouse), Somewhere Else (The Cobden Club), Duck Variations and Squirrels, A Slice of Saturday Night, Julius Caesar, The Secret Arch (Upstairs at the Gatehouse)
As ASM: It’s only Make Believe, The Good Doctor, From a Jack to a King (Upstairs at the Gatehouse). Julia works as a freelance technician in various theatres in London
Amy trained in Technical Theatre at Mountview. Her credits include – Sweet Charity; Shaw Theatre (Designer), Mad Forest; Chelsea Theatre (Designer), Hot Mikado; Hoxton Hall (Assistant Designer), Fame; Wyvern Theatre (Set Painter), Side By Side By Sondheim; Upstairs at the Gatehouse (Set Painter), They Came to a City; Mountview Theatre (Set Painter), Anatol; Tabard Theatre (ASM), American Clock; Greenwich Theatre (ASM), Four Knights in Knaresborough; Riverside Studios (ASM), Lucky Stiff; Wimbledon Studio Theatre (Stage Management).
She has worked for C-Venues and The Pleasance at The Edinburgh Festival and has also worked as the scenic artist on various short films.
Amy also has a strong performance background, and previously trained at The North London Performing Arts Centre.
Stuart has played bass guitar for seven years. During this time he has made large developments in both music performance and music theory.
He has performed in a number of bands, playing a number of different styles, including big-band style jazz, traditional jazz, rock, rhythm and blues, soul and pop. While serving as part of a soul revue band Stuart was given the responsibility for arranging the music and organising rehearsals. In 2003, he studied at the Guitar Institute & Bass Tech school in West London, developing further his transcribing andarranging skills, as well as performance and rhythm section skills.
Stuart also plays piano, rhythm guitar, blues harmonica and the sitar.
As if the original wasn’t camp enough, William F Brown decided to update ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ to the platform-shoed, huge-haired, wackily psychedelic ’70s. This reworking of the black musical has some cracking soul numbers and makes it perfectly clear that Dorothy’s taken LSD and is tripping her pigtails off to the tune of talking scarecrows, lions and tap-dancing men made out of tin. In the morning we can be fairly sure she’ll wake up back in Kansas with something of a headache. The soundtrack remains fantastic, and Ovation theatre company get stuck into it from the off. Just as well, since the dialogue has been trimmed to within an inch of its life. John Plews directs with some nice touches: the yellow brick road is a chorus that Dorothy and chums follow around the set; and the Wiz is an out-of-work actor, appalled at the quality of his props.
There are also some fine performances: Emma Lindars is wonderful as the wicked dominatrix of the west who, weirdly, Dorothy can still destroy with water; Jonathan Eiø has a soaring voice as the Tin Man; and Louisa Copperwaite picks up all of her supporting roles with verve.
Overall there’s more pizzazz and energy than polish or emotion finesse.
The Wiz Book by William F Brown
Music and Lyrics by Charlie Smalls
Playing at Upstairs at the Gatehouse until 29 January 2006
This award-winning 1970s remake of the Wizard of Oz ran for 3 years on Broadway when it first came out and it’s not hard to see why, with its infectious mix of feel-good songs and its upbeat mood. The original score synthesises the best of 70s-style music, i.e. more Diana Ross than Donny Osmond, in a Blues Brothersy score – and the film version starred Diana herself along with Michael Jackson. The famous tune here is Ease on down the road, which most people will instantly recognise.
This turbo-charged production at Upstairs at the Gatehouse features an impossibly young and beautiful cast, in costumes that are just fabulous. The Lion sports a wild Afro, leopard-skin shirt and paisley/orange smoking jacket; the Scarecrow is resplendent in patchwork flares matched with waistcoat studded with right-on badges and the Wiz himself boasts a green topper plus silver platform boots and those Lycra shorts.
But a special mention must go to the Munchkins who whizz around on wheely chairs cloaked in their conical shells by the Arts Educational Schools and pop their hands and heads out for their ironic Munchkin dances rather like the Mock Turtle. I can’t quite describe why this is so funny but it just is.
The creators of this musical were brave enough to mess with an American icon and set it right in the middle of flower power, psychedelia and soul music, with the plot and characters remaining essentially the same. Peopled with actors representing a poppy field and the good old Yellow Brick Road, this is Oz on some kind of hallucinogen.
Dorothy is played by Sarah Boulton with a freshness and immediacy, which coupled with her strong voice makes her a winner. Evillene, the wicked witch of the West, has found her soul mate in the actor Emma Lindars who invests the role with a great personality and rich jazz voice. What is this thing the Brits have with the pathetic underdogs? Sometimes you just want the mean old overdogs and wicked witches to win for a change. Despite his angelic photo in the programme, Stuart Hickey is an outrageous and cheeky Wiz out for the main chance but who charms all in sight.
This exuberant young cast and the entire Ovation production team have created a show that is unashamedly happy, rampantly energetic and a must-see this Christmas.