My nine-year-old LOVED The Wiz at Stages Theatre! That actually surprised me a little. It’s not like it was a Disney film. However, I guess on reflection it shouldn’t have. This is the Theatre for Young Audiences (“TYA”) version of The Wiz. TYA’s “mission is to promote the power of professional theatre for young audiences through excellence, collaboration and innovation across cultural and international boundaries.”
Where some of the humor from the original book and Broadway version of the Wiz may seem tasteless now, Stages managed to maintain the integrity of the musical, but remove any offensiveness. The humor of the musical transcended age levels. Both kids and adults will enjoy this play.
The cast was amazingly energetic in their portrayals of the characters of Oz. The Scarecrow, played by Kevin Dustrude, was very funny. His loose-limbed antics brought to mind a young Dean Holt (who coincidentally played a scarecrow this year, also). The Lion (Andrew Moy) often carried the show with his solid acting and comedic relief sprinkled throughout the play. The running jokes about his cowardliness escalated in hilarity as the play went on. Stages chose to cast a female as the Tin Man — but not change the character to a Tin Woman. A good call. Jada Gardner played a very convincing Tin Man. She may have been one of the most talented actors on the stage.
What can you say about Evilene, The Wicked Witch. “You could say the old lady was liquidated”. Brittany Parker, who also played Auntie Em, made one of the most amazing first appearances of the whole musical. Her hunchback henchman grooved onto the stage to announce her entrance and when wheeled in, she owned the stage.
Dorothy, played by Isabella Huerta, was my daughters favorite character. Huerta is a very likable actor and a good singer. (My daughter wants me to be sure to mention she is pretty, too.)
Karin Olson, the Lighting Designer, deserves special mention. Lights were used to pull the audience into the set and make them a part of the scene. For instance during the Emerald City scene, green dots of lights engulfed the audience and stage — turning the whole room into the Emerald City. On the downside, the actors singing voices were so vibrant and impressive that it left the music sounding like it was coming from a boom box at times. However, my daughter left with a new set of “favorite” songs and has been enjoying replays of all the music from The Wiz on YouTube.