Given the number of audio dramas available of L. Frank Baum’s respected classic Wizard of Oz, it is both understandable and admirable that this new version from Big Finish tries to do something a little different. The problem comes from the impossibility of improving upon that original story and unless any changes are of equivalent quality then they serve to detract from such a familiar source material. It is unfortunate then that some of those changes don’t quite work.
The central story and themes are the same, with the main differences coming in the journey of Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Lion to The Emerald City, and then on the search for Good Witch Glinda. Variations occur in their encounters and adventures with the Monkeys, the Field Mice and the Kalidahs and while these meetings still occur, exactly how they happen and the nature of the outcomes vary slightly. There is also a tendency to place Dorothy to the fore, with her companions slightly less prominent and less influential. Inconsistencies also arise within the voice cast, with central characters like Dorothy and the Munchkins clearly American while the Lion and others seem be less so, with British twangs clearly noticeable.
One thing very clear is the tone of the drama. This is very much a child-friendly version with light humour coming from all quarters; particularly the Munchkins and the often historically scary Flying Monkeys. The latter in particular are entertaining, depicted as union-loving taxi drivers and as such provide some of the best lines.
On the whole, this is a fun and entertaining adaptation of a well-known story but it doesn’t offer anything new or entirely succeed with its changes to warrant much interest from all but those with the passion of a completist. As light bedtime fun for young children, this version is perhaps worth seeking out but that aside it’s hard to know exactly who it’s for.
And no matter what, no matter how hard you try, you’ll still sing all those hugely catchy songs in your head!
THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ / AUTHOR: L. FRANK BAUM, MARC PLATT / DIRECTOR: SCOTT HANDCOCK / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / STARRING: ALLY DOMAN, DAN BOTTOMLEY, DANIEL BROCKELBANK, ALEX JORDAN, STUART MILLIGAN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW