The Emerald City came to Berwickshire last week as Duns and District Amateur Operatic Society (DDAOS) put on their production of the 1970s musical, The Wiz, a soul music driven re-imagining of the classic ‘The Wizard of Oz’ by Frank L. Baum.
The Volunteer Hall, under the management of community charity, A Heart for Duns, has been transformed in recent years and DDAOS first time director Hannah Hay made full use of the enhanced capabilities, using lighting and back projection to create a professional level of staging.
Musical director Mike Hardy put together an impressive 18-piece band built around a funk-based horn section and everything was ready for Kansas farm girl Dorothy to be whisked away by a tornado and dropped in the magical land of Oz.
Dorothy is, of course, central to the story. In a tale where most of the characters are either black or white, good or bad, Dorothy has to be by turns vulnerable and brave, little girl lost and leader of the gang. Susanna McEwan hit just the right note as she sang and danced her way along the yellow brick road with an assured performance.
Along the way she befriends Scarecrow, played by DC at his most charming, Tin Man, a great physical performance by Andrew McColl and cowardly Lion, Peter Lerpiniere, all bluster and bogus bravado.
Hannah Hay had obviously instructed her cast that at all times there must be something visually exciting happening on stage and the chorus clearly took this to heart. According to the programme there were only 14 of them but by rapid costume changes they managed to create the impression of a cast of thousands. In this they were aided by choreographer Lynn Jackson Joyce whose dance moves were ever inventive and never clichéd.
The Wiz featured so many strong performances that it almost seems churlish to pick just a few but this reviewer has to give a special shout out to Siobhan Herbert as the sassy witch Adderperle and Alex Watson as the wicked witch Evillene, managing to channel Tina Turner into her corseted and booted performance.
Angela Watney was imperious as The Wiz and James Shirreff delightfully bonkers as the bureaucratic Gatekeeper.
The Wiz was a bold choice for DDAOS and great credit must go to the young director and young lead, both of whom delivered on the night. As Rebekah Herbert, playing the good witch Glinda sang to Dorothy, ‘Believe in yourself’. On this showing DDAOS clearly do.