Review of The Chuckles of Oz at Darlington Civic Theatre

In In the Press, News, on the 15th, December 2014

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Chuckles of Oz review

AC Holmes, Darlington College NCTJ Journalism student.

Oh no they didn’t! David Burrows mixes old school pantomime gags with interactive 3D technology to enthral audiences both young and old in the latest sparkling Christmas special to hit the Darlington Civic Theatre – ‘The Chuckles of Oz’.

Headlining double act and children’s comedy favourites The Chuckle Brothers (known formally as Paul and Barry Elliott) dish out healthy dollops of classic panto slapstick: a play sword fight, jaunty sing-alongs and a disastrous attempt at baking a cake. Meanwhile, L. Frank Baum’s timeless characters – Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion – are brought to the stage by a markedly younger cast.

Beth Stobbart plays a tooth-rottingly sweet Glinda, and Adam C. Booth perfectly captures the clumsy Scarecrow who hasn’t got a mind to make up. As the Tin Man and Cowardly Lion respectively, Danny Potts and Phil Corbitt had no trouble winning the audience’s sympathy. Lauren Varnham as Dorothy is feisty compared to Judy Garland’s iconic girl-next-door performance – but the star of the show was her four-legged friend, ‘Toto’, who remained admirably unimpressed by the fireworks and smoke machines, and could probably win ‘Most Patient Dog’ at next years Crufts.

‘The Chuckles of Oz’ captures all the Christmassy nostalgia of queuing up for a tub of vanilla ice cream during a busy interval, while the incorporation of animated 3D backgrounds brings a 21st century twist to the familiar routine. There can be no doubt that panto is universally acknowledged as ‘one for the kids’, but when the Wicked Witch of the West sneaks up behind our heroes, it is adults shouting “she’s behind you!” the loudest.

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