There are few stories so widely recognised and deeply cherished as the Wizard of Oz.
The 1939 film, based on L Frank Baum's children's novel the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, is the most-watched movie of all time, introduced the world to Academy Award-winning song Over the Rainbow and propelled its leading lady, Judy Garland, to international stardom.
Now, 85 years after its release, the beloved tale of friendship and belonging comes to Canterbury with a technicolour stage production that scratches the itch for nostalgia while giving fans a touch of 21st century magic.
The show, starring RuPaul’s Drag Race UK winner The Vivienne and TV presenter Gary Wilmot, is overflowing with nods to the film, transporting you right back to your childhood.
From iconic lines that have become part of today’s vocabulary (“There’s no place like home”, “We’re not in Kansas anymore” and “I’m melting!”) to a score inspired by the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer musical, fans of the original won’t be disappointed.
It’s a film I used to watch at my grandparents’ house as a child but, to be honest, it must be at least 20 years since I’ve seen it.
However, it didn’t take long for the memories to come flooding back and I found myself grinning and toe-tapping along to Ding-Dong the Witch is Dead, the Merry Old Land of Oz and Follow the Yellow Brick Road.
As Dorothy and Toto set off on their path to find The Wizard, they meet new friends - The Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion - and when the foursome band together for We’re Off to See the Wizard, the auditorium is filled with pure joy.
Each character brings their own unique movements, from The Scarecrow’s fluid motion to the Tin Man’s robotic poses, and the Cowardly Lion is a comedic homage to film actor Bert Lahr.
Dorothy, played by Aviva Tulley, has some big ruby slippers to fill, but her rendition of Over the Rainbow proves we’re in safe hands and she commands her leading role with ease.
Of course, she couldn’t do it without her sidekick, Toto, portrayed by a puppet that is so expertly handled that within minutes I forget there’s someone standing behind the dog, controlling its wagging tail and curious looks.
Renowned drag artist The Vivienne puts in a shift as the Wicked Witch of the West, giving us a camp villain that is equal parts horrifying and compelling - their inclusion in the show is a perfect tribute to the film’s legacy among the LGBTQ+ community.
Fans of actor Gary Wilmot might be disappointed to see he’s only on stage for a few scenes, but he plays the part of The Wizard with charm and warmth.
While the show is bursting at the seams with nostalgia, it’s also been updated for a modern audience.
Glinda the Good Witch appears on a pink moped, rather than a floating bubble, and the Wicked Witch of the West keeps tabs on Dorothy from a computer-operated laboratory.
The production also uses screens to provide a lot of the scenery, transporting us from Kansas to Oz within seconds.
In my opinion there’s no replacement for real-life sets, but even I have to admit the screens help update the story and are a great way for a touring production to bring excitement and action to every theatre it visits.
Lots of films from days gone by get stuck in a time capsule and eventually, as the generations move on, become a forgotten relic of past eras.
Thanks to productions like this, however, the Wizard of Oz has lived on, and will continue bringing a wonderful adventure of colour, music, love and laughter to families for years to come.
The Wizard of Oz is at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury until Sunday, February 11. Book tickets online here.
You can also book tickets by calling 01227 787787.