BWW Review: BE A LION By Rory D. Sheriff
Be A Lion, written by playwright/screenwriter Rory D. Sheriff, opened for its third season this past weekend (April 8th and 9th) at the Duke Energy Theater, at Spirit Square. Inspired by the Broadway hit musical and film, The Wiz, Be A Lion gives us a visual update of what happened to the lead characters of The Wiz, Dorothy (Nailyah Gardner), The Lion (Chadwick Pressley), The Tin Man (Keon Taylor), and The Scarecrow (Gerald Hazelton). It also give us a glimpse of The Emerald City and the attempt to find a new leader for the now defunct leader, the Wizard, who has skipped town. Miss One (Chiletta Marie) convinced and encouraged The Lion to take his place as king and ruler of Oz. But first...he must survive the vengeance of Damneesha (Melody Williams), the love child of a flying monkey and Evilene, who was killed by Dorothy in The Wiz with a splash of water. The Lion, accompanied by his loyal friend, Miles, the Mouse, (Rasheed Owens), sets out on a journey down "the yellow brick road" to be the next ruler of The Emerald City. He seeks the assistance of his friends, The Tin Man and The Scarecrow. The Tin Man, who received a heart in The Wiz, is now a game attendant at a carnival. Although married to the "iron fisted ruler", Teenie (Tiffany Pratt), it doesn't stop him from being a flamboyant ladies' man. The Scarecrow, who received a brain in The Wiz, is a professor at Scarecrow University. Both refused to help him because they are content with their lifestyles. However as the plot thickens, both friends are captured by Damneesha's cronies, "The Flying Crabs", and are delivered to "the evil one".
The magic of the play is the love story between The Lion and LaDawn (Ruby Edwards) the Rastafarian lioness, who's a vegetarian. The chemistry between the two is magnetic and undeniable, in spite of the surprise ending. Both actors send forth "sparks" in their onstage flirting and with their melodious singing.
In Act Two, we finally see Dorothy, who is now a school teacher in Harlem. I might add though, Nailyah is a good fit for the role of Dorothy. She is grown up, but still has that childhood innocence that makes her believable as an older version of her younger character. She is transported to "Oz" by a yellow taxi cab this time, to help her friend, Lion, free their imprisoned friends. This time it is The Lion who saves the day, not Dorothy. He eventually destroys Damneesha due to her allergy to shell fish. And the Emerald City is restored.
The Lion and LaDawn are reunited, after a lover's quarrel, and are crowned as King and Queen of The Emerald City. And as the fairytale goes, "They all lived happily ever after...well sort of!
The singing in Be A Lion is its greatest asset. The original scores and the melodious voices of the cast, especially the lead character, The Lion, was second to none. Though it has some semblance of The Wiz, it has its own unique and modern day urban flair. The makeup and costumes were also complementary to the visualization of the storyline. As the playwright, Rory D. Sheriff of a Brand New Sheriff Productions conveyed, Be A Lion is evolving into a full-fledge Broadway-style production. I believe with the evolution of the backdrops and set design to match the talent and vocals that are already at that level, we will definitely see Be A Lion on Broadway.