Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

REVIEW ; Light Opera Guild Delivers Whiz-Bang `Wiz'

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

REVIEW ; Light Opera Guild Delivers Whiz-Bang `Wiz'

Article excerpt

I am a newcomer to "The Wiz, never having seen the several previous incarnations staged by the Charleston Light Opera Guild well back into the late '80s, as well as the Broadway show and movie version in the '70s. So, I came with fresh eyes and ears to FestivALL's Saturday night production of "The Wiz, an urbanized retelling of L. Frank Baum's classic 1900 children's novel, "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

But any theatergoer to Saturday's production could not help but come away impressed by the staging, choreography and casting of the show, as well as some delightful solo and chorus singing by the all African-American cast.

Desiree Murphy stars as wide-eyed but plucky Dorothy, hoisting Toto (played by a mellow rescue dog named Maxx, in his stage debut). She easily commanded the stage when she took to it, the effect multiplied during amusing duets such as "Be a Lion, featuring the Cowardly Lion, played by Kevin Hardy.

Since "The Wizard of Oz movie, starring Judy Garland, is so burned into the American collective consciousness, a viewer could not help but compare the main characters in "The Wiz to their movie counterparts.

It's not quite a fair comparison, especially given the slightly edgier, irreverent take of "The Wiz on Baum's tale. This is most prominent in the racy "kiss my foot antics of Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the East, played to the campy, bellowing hilt by Shayla Leftridge, who kicked out the jams on "No Bad News.

Yet if you cherish Bert Lahr's Cowardly Lion of the film, you would not have been disappointed as Kevin Hardy passed it forward, with a sniveling, shivery Lion who finally finds his inner roar. His long Jheri curl lion mane was also to die for (although I missed Lahr's misbehaving tale).

In fact, all the costuming, provided by the Maine State Musical Theater and Schenz Theatrical Supply, was A-grade, especially the Technicolor suits and dresses worn by the citizens of Oz and the mock tin suit and stove pot hat worn by the Tin Man.

As that Tin Man, Reginald M. Parks (now a veteran of all four Guild productions of "The Wiz), pulls off the nifty trick of transitioning from a character frozen in place only to be loosened up completely with a little oil from his friends, set to the tune of audience-pleasing "Slide Some Oil to Me. …

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