Off to see the Wizard

Feb 22 2016 | By More

Southern Light return to yellow brick road

Southern Light, Edinburgh’s oldest amateur theatre company, takes to Frank L Baum’s yellow brick road again this week, with The Wizard of Oz running at the King’s, Tue 23-Sat 27 Feb, 2016.

It’s nine years since the company first went off to see the Wizard, and although that was a big, complex production, the same production team of  director Andy Johnston, MD David McFarlane and choreographer Louise Williamson return with a bigger, better show.

Dorothy and Tinman. Photo Greg Macvean

Anna Chidgey and Laurence Aitken at the Amateur Showcase in January. Photo Greg Macvean

This is the musical of the 1939 film starring Judy Garland with some of the most famous film music of all time. It tells of Kansas girl Dorothy Gale and her dog Toto who gets caught in a tornado that whisks her off to the land of Oz.

Once there she gets to meet Munchkins, a Scarecrow, a Tin Man and a Lion, then head down the yellow brick road to meet the great and powerful Wizard of Oz himself. On the way they chirp up with the likes of Somewhere Over the Rainbow, We’re Off to See the Wizard and Ding Dong the Witch is Dead.

Andy Johnston, who is directing his seventh musical for the company, told Æ: “Nine years down the line I am a little bit more adept at the technical side of this theatre. So we are pushing it even further than we did before.

“There are more people flying in more places than there were before. There are video effects, rather than manual clunky effects on the stage, there is lots of fire, there is lots of smoke, there are lots of projectors – it is massive!”

Anna Chidgey and Tanya Williamson with assorted Munchkins. Photo Greg Macvean

Anna Chidgey and Tanya Williamson with assorted Munchkins. Photo Greg Macvean

Johnston is clearly thrilled by the size and complexity of the show – he has a cast of 65 adults, 80 children and one dog at his command. Not to mention the on-stage fire, two floating witches and flying monkeys.

Yet he has no qualms about bringing the show itself back to the King’s stage.

The Wizard of Oz is definitely a musical for everyone,” he says. “It is one of the most beloved stories of all time; the 1939 Judy Garland movie is a part of everyone’s childhood and down through the generations everyone has their own special memories of the first time they saw it.”

“We have a very strong and experienced principal cast who have been working very hard to bring their own personalities to these classic characters – this is very much our version of how we see the show.

Big red glittery shoes to fill

“It is quite remarkable that a story written at the beginning of the 20th century and adapted as a movie some seventy-odd years ago still has such a hold on public affection.”

Andy Johnston on stage during the get-in. Photo Southern Light

Andy Johnston on stage during the get-in. Photo Southern Light

Playing Dorothy is Anna Chidgey, who was Laurey in Oklahoma! three years ago and a milkmaid in Oliver! last year. She was also in The Wedding Singer with Alegro.

Chidgey told Æ: “I feel I have got big shoes to fill. Big red glittery shoes! It has been brilliant working with loads of different people and working with the production team and taking you from your normal person and taking you into the fantasy land of Oz.”

Performing alongside Anna will be a little terrier called Milly, who plays the role of Toto. They get on so well together that they are even doing high five tricks.

“We actually did audition dogs,” Anna explained to Æ. “Which is the bizarrest experience I have ever had, with three different prospective Totos came along. We got the best one definitely. She is fab.”

Johnston adds: “It is a fantastic piece for times like just now because it is complete and utter escapism. What better, more colourful, more fantastic, more toe-tapping show could you have than The Wizard of Oz in these times of austerity?

“It is pure escapism and you can’t ask better than that.”


Southern Light present The Wizard of Oz
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street EH3 9LQ
Tuesday 23 – Saturday 27 February 2016
Evenings: 7.30pm; Sat matinee: 2.30pm/
Tickets £16-£20 from or phone: 0131 529 6000

Principal cast:

Anna Chidgey (Dorothy)
Rory MacLean (Scarecrow/Hunk)
Laurence Aitken (Tin Man/Hickory)
Gary Gray (Lion/ Zeke)
Elspeth Whyte (Wicked Witch of the West/Miss Gultch)
Tanya Williamson (Glinda/Auntie Em)
Scott Walker (Guard/Uncle Henry)
David McBain (Wizard of Oz/Professor Marvel)
Milly (Toto)


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