Tuesday, 28 June 2011

The Wizard of Oz & Cast Interview - Part 1

Welcome back to Access London and thank you for your continued support for disability access and awareness.

Today's post is on Andrew Lloyd Webber's fabulously entertaining The Wizard of Oz at the London Palladium.

You may remember the BBC1 programme 'Over The Rainbow', hosted by Graham Norton that televised Lloyd Webber's hunt for a Dorothy for his new production of The Wizard of Oz. The show concluded with the people's choice of Danielle Hope taking the lead role of Dorothy and the show's runner up, Sophie Evans, as the alternate Dorothy. The show sees the return of Michael Crawford to the West End stage for the first time since he appeared in The Woman in White.

This show is one for the whole family - for children and adults of all ages who want an entertaining, lively and fun night out, experiencing a show with all the well-loved songs from the film of the same name. The sets are magical with a revolve that holds the Yellow Brick Road and Dorothy's introductions to her new friends on her journey to the Emerald City. Some of my favourites include the cornfields scene where Dorothy meets the Scarecrow, The Emerald City scenes and also the Munchkin Land set. The costumes too are very special - from Glinda's sparkly, princess gown to the Tin Man's squeaking joints.

The brilliant performances from both Dorothys, The Scarecrow, Tin Man, Lion, Glinda, the Wicked Witch and of course Michael Crawford's numerous roles, including the Wizard are backed up by a talented ensemble who bring the larger scenes to life, filled with colour and laughs.

The London Palladium is located on Argyll Street - just off of Regent Street and close to Oxford Circus. Argyll Street itself has no kerbs and so access along it is straighforward. If you use a wheelchair or mobility scooter, The Palladium is brilliantly accessible - especially after its recent investment in disabled access. Front of house staff will be waiting outside and will let you in a side door (just next to the main entrance steps). Inside there is a shallow slope along a corridor to a lift that takes you and your carer/companion to the stalls level. The steward will guide you through the bar area and around to the back of the stalls. You will find an accessible toilet in this area too. The stalls are on a rake down towards the stage. There are several spaces for people who cannot transfer out of their chair. For those who can, any aisle seat will be accessible for you. The staff are all extremely helpful and will store your scooter or chair at the back of the stalls, bring you interval drinks and help you at the end of the show to exit.

To book access seats for you and a carer/companion and to discuss your access needs, please call: 020 7087 7960. For all other tickets and enquiries please call: 0871 220 0260

Access London has been lucky enough to speak with a couple of the cast members of the show and we are delighted to share their answers to our questions with you. Today's Q&A is with Sophie Evans, who was the runner up in Over The Rainbow and who plays Dorothy every Tuesday and also when Danielle Hope is away.

AL: You landed the role of alternate Dorothy after competing in BBBC1's Over The Rainbow. What was it like to be auditioned in front of millions on national TV?
SE: It was extremely nerve-wracking but amazing at the same time. Looking back, I had such a fantastic time that the nerves were overcome by the whole experience.

AL: How do you juggle training at Arts College whilst being part of a West End production?
SE: It is difficult as training is so tough on its own so to be in a West End cast aswell is extra tough. I do love being at Arts Ed. though, it's great to be getting that experience and to be working, a total dream come true!

AL: The Palladium is an iconic London theatre. What was it like to step out onto its' stage the first time your played Dorothy?
SE: It was so overwhelming. The London Palladium is such an iconic theatre that I have goosebumps thinking about my first night! The curtain calls were extra special, coming out and getting a massive cheer and standing ovation completely took my breath away and tears were streaming down my face - Joyful tears!

AL: Do you and Danielle discuss how Dorothy's character should be played or do you keep your thoughts separate?
SE: It's been great doing it with Dan but we have very different Dorothy's. That's what makes the show so interesting.

AL: What is your favourite song/scene to perform in the show?
SE: I love the Emerald City scene as all of the cast are on stage and it's so fun and colouful. That's when I really feel like I'm in a West End cast and a very talented one at that. I feel so privileged.

AL: What is it like working with an animal in live theatre?
SE: It definitely keeps me on my toes. I love dogs so it wasn't too difficult to work with them. The Totos we have are so obedient and I have gained such a bond with them.

AL: This is your first professional role. Have you received much advice from the more experienced members of the cast?
SE: Yes, especially Michael Crawford. He is such a legend in the theatre-world especially. He comes into my dressing room before every show, just for a little chat and some extra words of encouragement or advice, he's a great man to work with.

AL: If you could play any role(s) in musical theatre, what would it/they be?
SE: There are many roles I would love to play but the two I would really love to do are Glinda in Wicked! and The Little Mermaid. They are both such magical shows, like The Wizard of Oz. Hopefully one day I can get the chance to do them.

A huge Thank You to Sophie for taking the time to answer our questions. Our next, and final post, on The Wizard of Oz will include an interview with the talented and hugely funny Paul Keating who plays the Scarecrow in the show.

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COMING NEXT: The Wizard of Oz Part 2 - Meet the Scarecrow
COMING SOON: The London Eye and River Cruise, Tate Modern.

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