Peggy Sue Dunigan
Review

A Wiz made for kids glitters at First Stage

By - Mar 22nd, 2010 01:56 pm
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The main cast eases on down the road in First Stage's production of <i>The Wiz</i>. Photo by Mark Frohna.

The main cast eases on down the road in First Stage’s production of The Wiz. Photo by Mark Frohna.

Dorothy and her three friends are easing on down that yellow brick road to find the Big Green Apple — the Emerald City — in The Wiz. First Stage Children’s Theater has adapted the 1975 William Brown/Charles Smalls Broadway hit version of The Wizard of Oz specifically youth audiences. First Stage upholds traditions while incorporating new elements, including a new orchestration by music director Richard Carsey.

The 1975 Wiz honored African American culture by revising L. Frank Baum’s classic novel (and the famous Judy Garland movie based on it) into ethnic vernacular delivered by an all-black cast. First Stage went for color-blind color and a hip-hop, r&b, high-tech trip from Kansas to Oz.

In First Stage’s spectacular production, Dorothy travels through a two-story time tunnel and emerges from the central opening amid twinkling lights and green smoke. Jason Fassl designed the imaginative lighting. Debbie Baer dressed the cast in space-age materials. The Wizard sports a satin cape and slick suit. Evilene’s black ball gown shines and miraculously disappears down the drain when Dorothy defends herself from the witch’s spells.

Alyssa Sylvester’s voice catches every note of Dorothy’s youthful longing. Scarecrow Jackson Evans, Tin Man Parrish Collier and Lion David R. Weaver, Sr. transform this affectionate trio into the brains, heart and courage needed for a heroic trip. Tiffany Cox (Addaperle) and Ericka Wade (Evilene) mesmerize the audience with their unique characters, especially when the Wicked Witch belts out Don’t Nobody Bring Me No Bad News.

David R. Weaver, Sr. (left) as Lion and Alyssa Sylvester (right) as Dorothy.  Photo by Mark Frohna.

David R. Weaver, Sr. (left) as Lion and Alyssa Sylvester (right) as Dorothy. Photo by Mark Frohna.

The showed appeared to entrance the children in the audience, especially when Sheri Williams Parnell, as Glinda the Good Witch, strode majestically down the theater aisle to encourage Dorothy to believe in the magic right in her own heart.

This First Stage production of The Wiz glitters like an emerald.

First Stage Children’s Theater presents The Wiz through March 28 in Marcus Center Todd Wehr Theater. For tickets: 414-273-7208.

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