Review: Ease on Down To See THE WIZ at Broadway San Diego Before It Goes to Broadway

Ease on down to Broadway San Diego to see the show before it premieres on Broadway.

By: Jan. 13, 2024
Review: Ease on Down To See THE WIZ at Broadway San Diego Before It Goes to Broadway

San Diego is no stranger to shows performing here and then heading to Broadway, and THE WIZ, now playing at Broadway San Diego at the Civic Theatre through Sunday, January 14th is making a similar journey.  With soaring vocals, striking choreography, and a vibrant cast this show offers a lot to enjoy, though the journey through OZ isn't without a few bumps in the road before its final destination.

Broadway-bound THE WIZ is a reimagined version of the 1975 musical and brings a very contemporary sensibility to this already updated version. Directed by Schele Williams, the show is high-energy and fast-moving. It uses the combination of the fantastical and the historical to explore, celebrate, and connect audiences with Dorothy’s journey through OZ through an African-American lens.

Review: Ease on Down To See THE WIZ at Broadway San Diego Before It Goes to Broadway

It opens with Dorothy (Nichelle Lewis) explaining to her Aunt EM (Melody A. Betts) about her difficulties fitting in at her new school and her desire to be somewhere else.  EM tries to reassure her but soon a tornado sweeps through town and Dorothy now finds herself in the technicolor New Orleans-inspired land of OZ.

Greeted by Addaperle ( Allyson Kaye Daniel), who is a good witch who hilariously can’t resist making fun of her sister whom Dorothy just crushed with her house.  The glittery glamorous Glinda (Deborah Cox) also arrives to advise Dorothy how to get home - she must as the magical Wiz (Alan Mingo Jr.)

Soon Dorothy finds herself on the yellow brick road (less a road and more sentinels to keep people on the right path) and she soon meets the Scarecrow ( Avery Wilson), the Tinman (Phillip Johnson Richardson), and the Lion (Kyle Ramar Freeman).  All they have to do to make their dreams come true is stick together, find the Wiz, and avoid the Wicked Witch of the West, Evilliene (also Betts) - how hard could that be?

Review: Ease on Down To See THE WIZ at Broadway San Diego Before It Goes to Broadway

The show is vibrant, ultra-fantastical, very funny, and musically glorious as a whole.  The scenic design by Hannah Beachler works with the digital projections by Daniel Brodi, and the lighting design by Ryan J. O’Gara to create an eye-catching, and vivid place.  The costumes by Sharen Davis are equally character-building and striking - Dorthy’s signature pinafore and check are brought fashionably more modern, and each witch is distinct, colorful, and full of personality. The Wiz is beautifully slick, and streamlined as befits his status, but also allows for a quick costume change for a getaway.

The music and the vocals are the true highlight here, as Lewis, Betts, and Cox all provide heartfelt, and vocally exquisite runs throughout the show.  Betts first act “The Feeling We Once Had” is gorgeously warm and smooth, and her turn as Evilliene is full of texture as she cackles and screams.  Cox brings a beautifully jazz-inspired Glinda,  full of control and style.  Lewis as Dorothy has many lovely numbers but it’s her eleven o’clock number of “Home” that will stay with audiences as they make their way home.

The vocal arrangements by Allen Renè Louis, who also did the music arrangements with Joseph Joubert are stellar and incorporate and celebrate many genres from gospel, jazz, 70’s funk, within the musical.  The ensemble is incredibly strong in all of the musical numbers.

Choreography by Jaquel Knight is dynamic and energetic, with Richardson's Tinman's “Slide Some Oil To Me” and the second act opener ‘The Emerald City” being standouts. There some numbers will benefit from the continued refining as the show gets closer to its Broadway debut, and some dance moments that felt a bit rushed to get to the next scene.

At two hours and 40 minutes, the show doesn’t always keep its pacing steady, has some moments that would benefit from sitting and exploring for a few minutes more for a better emotional connection, and at times can feel like it is trying a bit too hard to be all the things at once.

At the end of the day, the show is filled with very talented people celebrating life, friendship, family, and living your fullest and most vibrant life.  Plus, their vocal power will blow the roof off of any theatre they are in, from here to New York.


How To Get Tickets
 

THE WIZ is playing at Broadway San Diego at the Civic Theatre through Sunday, January 14th.  For ticket and show time information go to www.broadwaysd.com 


Photo Credit: Courtesy of Jeremy Daniel




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