Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby
Consider it a Christmas gift from the New McCree Theatre. Instead of its usual more seasonal offering, this year Producer Charles H. Winfrey has chosen to once again bring the award winning musical about Oz to life. This is the third time McCree has staged The Wiz, and this one may be the best of all.
Indeed, each time this troupe relocates, they eventually test the venue with this hefty undertaking involving many sets, music, singing, dancing, a host of characters, and even the possibility of a dog onstage. Now located in the former Powers High School facility, they have their best theatrical space ever, and they take full advantage of it.
Director Billie Scott Lindo is once again at the helm of this production and she has assembled a marvelously talented cast to “ease us on down the road”.
Reprising the role of Dorothy is Whitney Frierson, a couple years older and just as vocally powerful as we remember. As she enters chasing her “dog” Toto down the aisle, she is nearly overshadowed by the adorable little Raivinn Rison-Kennedy who plays the pup. Watch out for this one! She may be very tiny now, but she’s caught the performance “bug”!
Of course, Dorothy is quickly blown away from Kansas by the cyclone that arrives in the form of a ballet complete with dark banners and whirling dancers who gathered her up and spun her with realistic intensity. Great stuff! Kudos to choreographer Cameo Paschal-Fair.
Met by a group of Munchkins, Dorothy is lauded for killing the Wicked Witch of the East – those are her legs sticking out from under the porch. Dorothy is aghast to think she was the cause, but then the Good (if slightly ditzy) Witch arrives to save the day. Tiana Rison is a hoot as Addaperle with her wildly colorful costume and slightly addled disposition.
Dorothy sets out to find the Wiz and meets the talking Scarecrow. Illness brought understudy Sherita Swanigan to this role Friday where she was floppily perfect with her big eyes and sassy sashay-style moves.
These two soon encounter the Tin Man played with enthusiasm by young McCree veteran Myckal Powell in his shiny silver suit, green-sparkled hatchet and singing “Slide Some Oil to Me”.
Completing the trio is that big ol’ Lion played for the third time here by Daniel Lopez. Yep, he’s got this character down! His big voice soared on “Be a Lion”. He completes the crew that brings smiles every time they set out with “Ease on Down the Road”.
Of course they finally meet the Wiz who swoops in, cape flying and sporting a mask and a green beard. Terrance Patton Hill is tall and imposing as he makes promises he cannot keep. Still, he sends them off to face the most evil witch, Evilene, played with slithery guile by Alina Oliver.
Well, you all know how this one turns out. Lest we forget the lovely Glinda who sends Dorothy on her way back home, Ayana S. Mitts bookends the show playing both this role and that of Aunt Em. Her voice drew much delight in both roles.
Music Director Phillip Young and musicians – Ulysses Bailey, Tommy Shinn, Ron Terry, Robert Jackson, Kent Crawley, Jaylin Taylor and Ed Mason, provided live music in front of the stage-left side. Sometimes they were a tad loud but the personal microphones generally overcame that problem.
Truly worthy of mention in this production are the gorgeous costumes both designed and crafted by Cheryl Wright and Earlene Love. They provided the vibrant color and wonderfully magical tone that this fairy tale needs. Amazing job, ladies!
Were there problems? A few. The mics could become scratchy and then had to be backed off, or they were sometimes too loud thereby garbling the lyrics. The occasional cue was missed or slow but those on stage were able to handle it okay. The show ran a bit long Friday (close to three hours with intermission) so hopefully that was a fluke.
Overall, this is one of those talent-loaded shows that McCree is famous for. Music, song and dance are its forte and you will find yourself tapping your foot, chuckling, and flat out enjoying this one!
The Wiz continues at The New McCree Theatre through December 24 at Floyd J. McCree Theatre, 2040 W. Carpenter Road, Flint, MI 48505. For tickets, times and more information contact the box office at 810-787-2200 or visit online at www.thenewmccreetheatre.com