REVIEW: York Musical Theatre Company in The Wizard Of Oz, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, until Saturday ****

Toto puppeteer Adam Gill, left, Rachel Higgs’s Scarecrow, Zander Fick’s Tin Man, Sadie Sorensen’s Dorothy and Daan Janssen’s Lion in York Musical Theatre Company’s The Wizard Of Oz. Picture: Lucy Baines, Joy Photography

BY day, Sadie Sorensen teaches A-level Biology. By night and weekend matinee this week, she is “very excited to take on the bucket list role” of Dorothy in only her second show for York Musical Theatre Company (YMTC).

She is relatively new to the York am-dram scene, having relocated here two years ago, but brings bags of experience, having performed in many shows in her Hull past.

What a good talent spot by director and choreographer Kathryn Addison, who is rewarded with a super lead performance by Sorensen.

At 26, she is ten years older than Judy Garland’s iconic Dorothy Gale in Victor Fleming’s 1939 film – much older too than Eleanor Leaper’s Dorothy, aged 13, in YMTC’s 2010 production at York Theatre Royal – but she utterly evokes the tearaway teenager. Pitch of Kansas voice, spot on. Her singing, both powerful and emotive, especially in Over The Rainbow.

Addison’s cast has plenty more hits too, not least casting York stage stalwart Jeanette Hunter into the dark side for the first time as the mean-spirited Miss Gulch and the grouchy villain, the Wicked Witch of the West. Hunter is as entertaining as ever, such a good sport as the baddie.

Fellow “veteran” Martyn Hunter is on good form too, both as the kindly Professor Marvel and the “humbug” Wizard of Oz; Ben Caswell’s Emerald City Guard is full of comic panache; Elizabeth Gardner glitters as Glinda and Marlena Kellie’s Aunty Em is suitably homely.

Full of green energy: Ben Caswell’s Emerald City Guard. Picture: Lucy Baines, Joy Photography

Addison’s cast has an international flavour too. Zander Fick, classically trained in opera and jazz singing, moved to York from South Africa in April 2023 and now follows his scene-stealing Chef Louis in York Light Opera Company’s The Little Mermaid with a Tin Man replete with squeaky, robotic movement and, ironically, plenty of heart.

Better still is Dutch-born Daan Janssen, who honed his musical theatre-inspired drag performing skills while studying for his PhD in Germany and now turns in a terrific Lion. From his arch American accent to his timid yet proud demeanour and supreme singing voice, so deep and playful, he is a roaring success.

JoRo regular Rachel Higgs is an appealing Scarecrow and the Yellow Brick Road travelling troupe is completed by canine puppeteer Adam Gill’s ever attentive Toto in a show with two Totos for the price of one. Cast member Helen Barugh’s dog Daisy takes the role in the opening and closing Kansas farmhouse scenes; Elanor Kitchen’s puppet in Oz.

Addison’s choreography makes splendid use of both the adult ensemble and young Munchkins, while Helen Barugh, Katie Crossley and Kirsty Farrow’s Trees and Rob Davies and Caswell’s Crows have their moments too.

Musical director John Atkin’s ten-piece orchestra feels at home in all those familiar Harold Arlen and E Y Harburg songs, the playing light on its feet, the energy infectious. Julie Fisher’s costumes are a delight, for principals, ensemble and children alike, combining with UK Productions’ set design, Ollie Nash’s sound and Nick Lay’s lighting to complete a high- quality production in the merry old land of Oz. Time to follow the Yellow Brick Road to the box office.  

York Musical Theatre Company in The Wiard Of Oz, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, until Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Box office: 01904 501935 or