Music & Lyrics by Charlie Smalls
Directed & Choreographer by Stacey Flaster
Music Director William A. Underwood
Based on the story “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by Frank Baum
At The Theatre at the Center, Munster IN
The Wiz comes to life with heart and soul
When it comes to taking a mediocre or tired shows and giving it new life–director/choreographer Stacey Flaster is the one to call on. She has worked her wonders on the 1975 often misunderstood and often over-hyped African-American version of The Wizard of Oz – Brown & Smalls’ The Wiz. This tuneful show is usually too shrill, too loud and too intense to be cherished. But, with Stacey Flaster’s wizardry, it plays with loads of heart; terrific dancing; and with an honesty that gets us to empathize with Dorothy and her three pals.
From Bill Bartlet’s unique urban set to Brenda Winstead’s funky costumes, we leave Kansas and move on out to land of the Wiz and our journey is one of optimism, hope and caring. Flaster sure understands that this strange show needs to be a happy, even joyful journey and she delivers it.
From the opening tornado ballad we realize that this Wiz is a dance-filled musical. Adrianna Parson is a cute and empathetic Dorothy who sings nicely and dances beautifully. Her kindness gets her to also help three needy souls get to see The Wizard in order to get their needs met. We love these guys: Scarecrow (Darius Colquitt), Tinman (Jesse Dean Stanford), and Lion (James Earl Jones II). Each of these lovable creatures are worthy of a brain or a heart of some courage and each sing and dance with aplomb. Their chemistry with Dorothy is infectious. We cheer for them as they navigate their way toward The Wizard.
We are enchanted along the way by the terrific Emerald City Ballet and out first impression of Dwelvan David’s The Wizard is oppressive and a tad scary. His “So You Want to Meet The Wizard” has impact.
Act two brings out the magic of the arch-villain Wicked Witch of the West – Evillene – played with verve and rich humor by the electrifying Felicia P. Fileds. She puches out the R & B show-stopper “No Bad News” with a power that could light up Northern Indiana. Fields delivers a wonderful turn that makes the show worthy by it’s self! We see happiness triumph with catchy tunes like
“Everybody Rejoice” (penned by Luther Vandross). The lesson the Wizard expresses in “Believe in Yourself” and “Y’all Got It” are taken seriously by Dorothy and her friends.
For the first time, I’ve enjoyed a production of The Wiz. Stacy Flaster’s vision and her cast’s clarity become truthful performances made for a fun, toe-tapping journey. Somehow, Flaster got the funky material to become a fine show – with loads of heart (including one for Tinman!). Get to Munster to experience the re-birth of musical.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: July 10, 2011
The show runs 2 hours and 30 minutes with intermission