Wednesday, 24 June 2015

The Wizard Of Oz is relocated to 1970s Nottingham for Northern Soul production of The Wiz

Grab your ruby sneakers. The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz is being relocated to 1970s Nottingham for a Northern Soul-inspired adaptation of Tony-award-winning musical The Wiz. Rachel Gorman talks to director Martin Berry. 

Welcome to Nottingham's Oz, where the Tin Man is a mod, the Scarecrow sports a fierce afro and the Emerald City lies inside a Northern Soul club. 

"The Wiz is a mid-1970s Motown rock'n'roll take on The Wizard Of Oz", says director Martin Berry of his latest production at Nottingham Lakeside Arts. 

"It's all about Dorothy escaping from her humdrum life and it just occurred to us to set it in 1970s Nottingham when youngsters used Northern Soul as an escape." 

In this version, a collaboration between New Street Theatre and Nottingham Lakeside Arts, Dorothy's yellow brick road leads her to a downtown Northern Soul club where Munchkin ditties are replaced by club classics such as Tainted Love and The Night. 

Picking the music and rearranging songs from the original The Wiz stage show left Berry feeling like a kid in a sweet shop. 

"It was just a case of listening to a ton of Northern Soul tracks and finding the right ones, which was no great chore. It was brilliant fun. 

"Rearranging songs from the show just involved a lot of listening, a lot of research and we've got a couple of what we've called Northern Soul consultants, who are chaps in their senior years, shall we say, who were there at the time. They've been great in helping us to get it right. 

"It's the most fun, light-hearted, joyous thing I've ever directed. It's just a great story with lots of dancing, lots of singing and just a great night out." 

The Wiz: The Super Soul Musical originally opened in 1974 at the Morris A Mechanic Theatre in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1978 it spawned a film version with Michael Jackson starring as the Scarecrow, Diana Ross playing Dorothy and comedian Richard Pryor taking the reins as title character The Wiz. 

"It's a bonkers film," says Berry. "It shouldn't work but somehow it does. I was a huge fan and I completely adore the original Wizard Of Oz film too, it's in my top three films of all time." 

The production is quite a departure from Berry's last few productions at Lakeside Arts which have included Sweeney Todd and Oh, What A Lovely War! and covered more serious themes. 

But it is a change Berry has relished. 

"I don't want to give too much away but our Lion is only 13 and he's completely brilliant and the Tin Man is a mod, riding a scooter around. There's a big range there in terms of age and experience, the way that people sing and perform – and that was completely deliberate. 

"The first run-through is on Saturday, everything is on its feet, so we've got four weeks now to polish and perfect. 

"This is my favourite bit, when the hard work in terms of the creativity is largely done and the hard work of the spit and polish can begin." 

The production runs from July 14-25 with an open dress rehearsal on Monday, July 13. To book, visit the or call 0115 846 7777.

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