Scattered yellow notebook pages cover the floor of the Queen Elizabeth Hall. They are everywhere, and the staff is in no hurry to tidy them up. A closer look reveals they form a path – and this modern yellow brick road winds its way to the auditorium for ZooNation’s latest production Groove on Down the Road.
This take on the classic Wizard of Oz story is set in a classroom where creativity has no place. Dorothy (played by Portia Oti) is a dreamer, turning in poetry instead of equations. The Scarecrow (played by Jaih Betote Dipito Akwa) is teased for his dyslexia. The Tin Man (Michael Ureta) and Lion (Corey Culverwell) are outcasts.
Through a set of upbeat dance numbers set to the likes of Justin Timberlake and Michael Jackson, the characters slip into the wondrous world of Oz. This time, though, the story is told only by the brilliant young dancers’ expressions and movements. When Dorothy, shod in her ruby sneakers, sets off to Emerald City High with Toto (the accomplished Michael McNeish), she dances around the audience with such joy and hope, that the audience can’t help but to feel part of her journey.
The set is cleverly designed to draw the audience into the fantastical Oz. A screen flashes drawings, like sketching made during a boring lecture, that help flesh out the production. But the true standout is the dancing and young people that bring it to life. Kate Prince’s choreography keeps the story exciting and energetic, while also showcasing the dancers’ talents. Culverwell’s Lion particularly steals the show with his acrobatic and soulful movements.
The show, running until 1st September, is entertaining and intelligent, and wonderful for both adults and kids – you’ll leave in awe. (Words: Barbara Cole)
For more info, visit: http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whatson/zoo-nations-groove-on-down-th-74861