Energized cast, technically rich “The Wiz” sparkles on St. Stephens and St. Agnes School’s stage
All reviews are written by Cappies student critics and edited by Cappies adult mentors prior to publishing.
Only in a modernized world of Oz can one find leather-clad flying monkeys, a pelvis-gyrating lion, and a jive-talkin’ Tin Man. St. Stephens and St. Agnes School’s production of The Wiz invited audience members to “ease on down the road” right alongside Dorothy and company.
"The Wiz" is the adaption of L. Frank’s Baum’s iconic, "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," set in the context of African-American culture. With the script written in 1974, by William Brown, with music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls, The Wiz was created in a time of groundbreaking cultural changes within the nation spurred by the civil rights movement. The music and dance of the production are meant to display the artistic ventures of the African-American community, while making such cultural aesthetics available to audiences who might otherwise not be exposed to them. Originally performed in a Baltimore theater, The Wiz eventually moved to Broadway in 1975, where the show proceeded to win seven Tony Awards, including best musical. In 1978, the film version was released, starring pop stars Diana Ross and Michael Jackson as Dorothy and the Scarecrow. The plot of the Wiz tracks young Dorothy from Kansas, to the wonderful world of Oz, where she and her band of well-meaning misfits must follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City, in order to transform self-contradiction into self-confidence.
St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School’s production was strengthened by consistent cast participation, and energy. Cast members remained in character throughout the entirety of the show, demonstrating their commitment to character through appropriately employed facial expression and gesture.
Dorothy, played by Adhana Reid, was a true talent and highlight of the show. Her ability to accurately portray her character’s age and gradual transformation towards maturity was matched by her strong vocal ability. Arguably the anchoring force of the cast, vocally, Reid’s performance in numbers such as "Home, Act II," was truly astounding as her voice was rich, poignant, and strongly projected.
Another standout performance came from the Scarecrow, played by Jewell Dupree. Dupree crafted her character through realistic physicality, employing a disjointed, flimsy walk to portray a body supposedly compromised of straw. In Act I, after being unpinned by Dorothy (Reid), Dupree clumsily sauntered down the stage, blending aspects of slapstick comedy while defining her character. Even though some characters struggled with moments of poor pitch or overacting, the overall effect of the production was fluid; minor flaws did not ultimately serve as a detriment.
A clear strength of the performance was the innovative usage of lighting. A number of different types of lighting effects were employed: at times, simple spotlights would silhouette characters, while in other scenes, rapidly changing colors would contribute to the development of a fantastical world and the creation of mood. Especially effective was the appearance of strobe lights during intense scenes, to simulate rapid movement and add a feeling of excitement. Also notable was the set design of Oz; extreme attention to detail was enhanced by cleverly designed and stylish set-pieces, such as the Wicked Witch’s chair, which was partially composed of car tires and hub caps. The portable, interchangeable pieces added to the artistic quality, and brought out the modern relevance so vital to The Wiz.
With equal parts entertainment and creativity, St. Stephens and St. Agnes School’s production of The Wiz was a thoroughly delightful production which truly captured the sensational nature of the Land of Oz