"The Wiz" (Theatre at the Center): Cooler Version of the Classic!

"The Wiz" (Theatre at the Center):  Cooler Version of the Classic!

Between the 1930‘s ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ and 1990‘s ‘Defying Gravity,’ Dorothy gets her groove on circa1970’s!  Theater at the Center presents 7-time Tony Award winner, THE WIZ.  Based on the story “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” this 1975 Broadway smash is the electric slide down the yellow brick road. It was so popular Motown developed it into a movie starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. The story is familiar.  Dorothy is unhappy at home.  A twister blows her into a magical place.  Now, all she wants is to get back home.  She still befriends a scarecrow, tin man and lion as she ‘eases down the road.’ But this time, the witch to beat is named Evillene.   She doesn’t want ruby slippers.  She wants Dorothy’s stylish, silver metal, heels.  She’s not green, she’s mean… and twisted!  The whole show is a colorful spin on the childhood story.  The songs are more vibrant.  The dancing is more dynamic.  And the dialogue is riddled with emerald sparkling comedy. THE WIZ is definitely the cooler version of the classic.

‘We’re not in Kansas anymore.‘  That’s apparent from the start.  A tornado lifts Dorothy out of her hicksville drudgery and transports her to the big city.  The big wind is actually dancers and the whimsical motion blows me away.  I literally utter “Wow!”  One of my favorite parts of this whole production is the dancing.  Director and choreographer Stacey Flaster energizes the stage with high-stepping flair!  Flaster orchestrates an ongoing, high-spirited spectacle. The visual is aided by wildly, imaginative costumes by Brenda Winstead.  Winstead finds the playful side to urban renewal.  It’s a gaudy explosion of texture and color especially on the witches.  The magnificent Felicia P. Fields (Evillene)is dressed in a shiny red metallic monstrosity.  Fields belts out a memorable ‘No Bad News‘ with soulful command.  Dressed as a flashy-trashy bag-lady, Alexis J. Rogers(Addaperle) looks and acts with sassy hilarity!  Rogers joins her regally-dressed sister Candace C. Edwards (Glinda) singing an inspirational ‘Believe in Yourself.’

This isn’t “Wicked!”  It’s not about the witches.  It’s Dorothy’s story!  Adrianna Parson (Dorothy) takes the lead with a sweet spunkiness.  Parson stops the show poignantly singing ‘Home’.  Before she gets to that finale, Parson frolics delightfully with her odd traveling companions.  The camaraderie seems genuine between Parson and Darius Colquitt (scarecrow), Jesse Dean Stanford (tin man)and an adorable James Earl Jones II (lion).  The foursome sing, dance, and tease like real friends on a road trip.  Well, maybe more like real – AND TALENTED – friends.  The entire ensemble is like a group of pals that are playing make-believe together.  They radiate a true sense of fun.  Each musical number brings tireless animation.  At my show, there seemed like there was an audio issue on ‘Brand New Day.‘ I wasn’t sure if the orchestra was too loud, the singing too soft or the cast too tired.  The song, especially for its content, just didn’t have the exuberance of the rest of the show.

Go see THE WIZ!  This show has got smarts, heart and plenty of  pluckiness.

Wishing home was just a few clicks away, actresses-in-the-making describe the show with… Sabrina: ‘Best Play Ever!’ and Erin: ‘funky, hip, fresh.’

Running Time:  Two hours and fifteen minutes includes an intermission

At Theater at the Center, 1040 Ridge Road, Munster, Indiana

Based on the story “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by Frank Baum

Book by William F. Brown

Music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls

Musical directed by William A. Underwood

Directed and choreographed by Stacey Flaster

Wednesdays and Thursdays at 2pm

Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm

Sundays at 2:30pm

Thru August 7th

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