The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – Bolton

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Back in 2011 the Octagon theatre commissioned a team of writers to rework L. Frank Baum’s classic tale; The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Led by Elizabeth Newman the team created an entirely new and uniquely Bolton adaptation. Now in 2018 it’s time to treat audiences again to their distinctively Northern and delightfully brilliant version of the much-loved story.

While the Octagon undergoes its current refurb the action takes place at the impressive University of Bolton stadium, with the stage and auditorium giving off the wow factor the minute you enter. The setting may be different but the characters and familiar elements are all here in this inventive and entertaining adaptation.

Dorothy is a streetwise and self-assured teenager who lives with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, life is tough when you have holes in your shoes and your family don’t realise just how important having the latest trainers is. It gets even tougher when she suddenly and unexpectedly finds herself in the mysterious land of Oz after a freak cyclone hits Bolton.

The ruby slippers in this modern adaptation become light up high-tops; the yellow brick road a hand-held sat nav and the wonderful Wizard (played brilliantly by Matthew Ganley) is a Wiganer who is homesick for a decent pie.

Anne O’Riordan makes for a fabulous Dorothy, determined to find her way home she is a highly skilled storyteller and a charismatic performer, she beautifully engages both young and old as we will her to succeed in her mission.

David Heywood plays the not-so-stupid Scarecrow with great style; warm and witty he jumbles his words hilariously yet somehow makes perfect sense, proving there are much more important qualities than having a high IQ.

Thom Petty is a kind and caring Tin Man, full of heart and love, while Alexander Bean’s Brummie Lion shows true bravery lies in the courage of conviction as he rallies to protect his friends in the face of danger.

The well written script complete with original score and songs from Barbara Hockaday and Rob Hiley entertains from start to finish. The modern edge bringing the story bang up to date and delivering an important message of friendship, bravery, courage and being true to yourself.

The Octagon once again succeeds in bringing great quality feel-good theatre to Bolton. Ben Occhipinti’s direction is slick and engaging, ensuring the cast make full use of the expansive stage and auditorium, much to the delight of the little ones watching who if they’re lucky might just get a high-five off the Cowardly Lion or even see the Scarecrow take a moment to sit down beside them.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is fabulous family entertainment, inventive, fun and perfect for the festive season.

On at the University of Bolton Stadium until December 31st tickets available here.

Around The World in 80 Days – Interview with Matthew Ganley

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Matthew Ganley

Manchester born Matthew Ganley will spend Christmas at home in Salford after spending the year touring the UK in the stage adaption of Around The World in 80 Days. The New Vic Theatre’s celebrated production of Jules Verne’s famous novel, that follows the adventures of Phileas Fogg as he travels the world in a race against the clock, plays at The Lowry for a 6 week run over the festive season.

Opening Night caught up with Matthew to get the lowdown on the high spirted escapade before it opens in Salford on 5th December.

ON: What can we expect from Around the World in 80 Days?

MG: It’s a fast paced epic journey with a lot of action, fight sequences-there’s a circus, an elephant, lots of twists and turns and plenty of audience involvement. It’s quite an unforgettable experience!

ON: There’s only 8 of you in the cast playing 125 different roles-what’s the challenge of doing something like that every night?

MG: It’s keeping your stamina up as there’s never a dull moment. You run on stage as one person, you run off, do a quick costume change and you are back on doing something completely different. I go from an English aristocrat to a Bombay street seller in one of the changes between scenes!  

ON: It sounds like quite a spectacle we are in for…

MG: There’s obviously lots of different countries that Phileas Fogg travels to and in a short space of time we portray each of those environments with different sounds, feelings and accents. It’s a real visual treat for the audience.

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Around The World in 80 Days, photo credit: Andrew Billington

ON: Now you are a local actor, from Salford and this show sees you play your home ground for Christmas at The Lowry, how does that feel?

MG: I’m really chuffed to be at home for Christmas and it’s so nice to have friends and family that I can spend time with and share this great show with as they come to see me in it.

 ON: This isn’t the first time you have been on stage at The Lowry is it?

MG: Yes, over the years I’ve been in a number of different shows and I always love going back to The Lowry, it’s such a great theatre.

ON: Do you find things have changed now for northern actors such as yourself now we have these amazing theatres in the North West bringing some big productions to our stages?

 MG: Absolutely, particularly the Manchester Fringe scene. It is so vibrant now and there’s so much great work which gets produced.  That all feeds into the arts scene as a whole and it makes Manchester and Salford a very exciting place for outside companies to come and visit.

Listings:

Around the World in 80 Days

The Lowry, Salford

5 Dec- 7 Jan 2018

https://www.thelowry.com/events/around-the-world-in-80-days