Review: Going the Distance

After seeing theaters shut down for so long during the quarantine, it's easy to get emotional thinking about what they mean to people. "Going the Distance" taps into that emotion with a story of a community theater trying to mount a new adaptation of L. Frank Baum's Wizard of Oz story. This fully digital production is a collaboration between the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Oxford Playhouse, The Dukes, and The Watermill Theatre. 

This production follows other successful digital co-productions by Henry Filloux-Bennett including "What A Carve Up!" and "The Picture of Dorian Gray." Felicity Montagu directs from a script by Filloux-Bennett and Yasmeen Khan. 

The Matchborough Community Theatre knows that they don't have much money left, but they are determined to save their local venue with a fundraising production of a new play. But problems arise immediately from a demanding diva, a fighting writer and director, and a PR lady with a power complex. From their initial planning meeting over Zoom (a very nice touch) to their rehearsals in the theatre, we're taken along every step of the way. 

Matthew Kelly plays the gruff Frank, who has been roped into directing the production, but he's at odds with writer Vic, played by Shobna Gulati. Sarah Hadland is great as Rae, who is desperate to gain control and one of my favorite choices in the whole show is how she keeps checking her own appearance in the camera during the Zoom meeting. 

Nicole Evans brings the perfect amount of obnoxious leading lady energy to Billie and Penny Ryder is endearing as Maggie, the older woman on the staff who is roped into playing a role in the production. But much of the heart of the production comes from the interactions between Emma McDonald as Gail, the young woman playing Dorothy, and Merch Husey as her friend Kem. 

McDonald was one of the best parts of "The Picture of Dorian Gray" and the same is definitely true here. She brings real heart to the production as a young woman who has never been involved in theatre before but has a beautiful voice. 

In between the scenes of the show, Stephen Fry provides context as the narrator with additional images and video. The format is clearly a hybrid of theatre and film, seemingly somewhere in between the two and its own new genre. 

If you book a ticket, you will receive a link that allows you to view the show for 48 hours. It's very convenient, even for people like me who aren't in the same time zone as the United Kingdom because it allows for flexibility. 

The show does an excellent job of combining humor and real emotion, particularly as it touches on loss during coronavirus and the ways in which the quarantine has affected our theaters. It's also an excellent reminder of the need to support our theaters right now as those that have survived the last nineteen months are still likely struggling to stay afloat. One way to support theatre? Buy a ticket to this show. 

You can find more information and buy virtual tickets here. The show runs from October 4 to 17. 

I was given a press ticket to this show for the purposes of review, but all opinions are my own. 

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