by Rachel Mayman of Langley High School
St. Stephens and St. Agnes School’s production of The Wiz brought to life a soulful musical which puts a unique spin on a classic tale about a girl in shiny slippers trying to get home to Kansas. The enthusiasm and versatility of the cast "brought the house down," so to speak, while teaching a valuable lesson about discovering who you are and what you truly need to be happy.
The creators of The Wiz intended to revamp L. Frank Baum’s classic musical The Wizard of Oz and center it around African-American culture. With music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls and a book by William F. Brown, the Broadway production of The Wiz opened in 1975. The fervent musical represented America’s progress towards equal rights, as the cast was solely African-American. The production won seven Tony awards, including Best Musical. Along with several revivals, The Wiz was adapted into a 1978 film version that starred legends Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. The storyline is nearly identical to that of The Wizard of Oz, despite some name changes and personality shifts.
This production was anchored by the diverse physicality of the main characters. The robotic movements of the Tin Man were complemented by the floppy gestures of the Scarecrow, the Lion’s gangly dance moves, and Dorothy’s delightful presence. However, it was the clever details that defined the production, such as noisy kazoos that created the sound of screeching crows and black ribbons twirling around the stage to simulate a tornado.
Adhana Reid portrayed Dorothy with a refreshing energy that accurately depicted the character’s innocence and youth. Reid’s soulful voice resonated throughout the auditorium and shined during songs such as “Home”. Reid believably connected with TreVaughn Allison, who depicted the Lion. The audience roared with laughter when Allison strutted onto the stage as the Lion. Allison’s booming stage presence was evident in every subtle movement he made, whether it was posing with his paws or cowering in the corner as his cowardly character.
The jovial dancing of the ensemble added to the consistent energy of the show, especially in the climax number “Everybody Rejoice”. The cohesiveness of the ensemble was aided by the hilarious featured roles throughout the show. The Gatekeeper, portrayed by Ruthie Walston, relentlessly guarded the entrance to the Emerald City with precise comedic timing. While some actors were pitchy at times and had poor diction, the overall energy of the show was not impaired.
The bold and eccentric lighting was a highlight of the show, illuminating the stage with a broad range of bright colors and special effects. The impressive technical crew had minimal issues with sound, allowing the actors to be heard at all times. The pit orchestra, concealed by the stage, emitted a clear sound, complemented by pit singers, who added melodious background vocals. The stationary set added diverse playing areas through steps upstage leading to a second level and a ramp protruding out towards the audience that became a walkway for the actors.
St. Stephens and St. Agnes School’s well-rounded production of The Wiz proved that even the most beloved childhood stories can be seen a new light. This energetic musical certifies that we must appreciate what we have while we have it, because "there is no place like home."