Review Roundup: THE WIZ at See 'Em On Stage Productions

Review Roundup: THE WIZ at See 'Em On Stage ProductionsThe reviews are in for See 'Em On Stage Productions' THE WIZ! THE WIZ first opened on Broadway in 1975, winning seven Tony Awards, and was later adapted into a popular film starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. THE WIZ opened on March 9th and will run through March 25th.

Let's see what the critics had to say!

Theodore P. Mahne, The Times Picayune: At the centerpiece is young Charis Gullage as Dorothy. She wins the hearts of the audience quickly as she captures sweetly the lonely longing of the young girl living with her aunt and uncle on a Kansas farm, her only real friend being her dog, Toto... This young actress is a star in the ascendant. Jon Elliott is exceptionally charming as the Scarecrow, played as a club kid grooving to his own beat. Dominique McClellan's Tin Man is sturdy both in character and voice. And Eddie J. Smith proves to be a scene-stealer in his comic take on the Cowardly Lion. His rollicking throwback to the Summer of Love in his psychedelic trip through the field of poppies might inspire flashbacks among audience members of a certain age. The Wiz himself is played as a compelling shyster of self-affirmation with a cheery smile by Rahim Glaspy. Jennifer Bullock plays Auntie Em with heartfelt emotion and a beautifully powerful voice. Her performance of "The Feeling We Once Had" in the prologue establishes immediately that this "Super Soul Musical" is in fine hands. There are more witches to deal with in this production than fans of the original film will recall. Kathleen Moore offers a screwball take on Addaperle, the goofy Good Witch of the North. And Destani Smith brings dulcet tones to her brief appearance as Glinda, the Good Witch of the South. Perhaps the greatest flaw in the book is the slim role for Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West. For when a powerhouse like Whitney Mixon is on hand for such a role, the audience wants to spend every possible moment in her presence. From her entrance in the second act, she dominates. No black pointed hat is needed to indicate her role. A scarlet bustier and leather jacket will do nicely for this dominatrix witch with a shoe fetish. As a delicious villain, she also showcases a knockout voice in the standout number of the night, "Don't Nobody Bring Me No Bad News."

Brad Rhines, The New Orleans Advocate: It's not clear from the program which performers are pros and which are students (an intentional omission, said Bentivegna), but the entire cast overflows with energy and enthusiasm.The show is anchored by fine performances from Dorothy (Charis Gullage) and her trio of traveling companions (Jon Elliott, Dominique McClellan and Eddie J. Smith as the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion, respectively). As The Wiz, Rahim Glaspy is a commanding presence, one of the show's best, and standout supporting turns from Whitney Mixon (as Evillene) and Destani Smith (as Glinda) also elevate the production. The energy is electric in the big ensemble numbers (choreographed by Clayton Shelvin), particularly in the "Emerald City Ballet" and second-act showstoppers like "Don't Bring Me No Bad News" and "Brand New Day."

Will Coviello, Best of New Orleans: Choreography is a mixed bag. The early tornado scene is a wind-blown mess, particularly as a clumsy device to remove stage props. Many of the larger numbers have plenty of people on stage, and the group's energy overcomes any lack of polish. There's some unpolished mugging, as in the Munchkins' "He's the Wizard." James Means' set is surprisingly successful in placing the band like an island in the center of the stage. It's partially under a raised platform with stairs on both sides, and action swirls above and around it. Set and props are otherwise minimal. In the original film, it seemed odd that Dorothy wanted to leave the colorful land of Oz to go back to the black-and-white plains of Kansas. With this production of The Wiz, it's the music that makes Oz wonderful. It's well worth the trip.

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