In the 1970s, The Wiz took Broadway by storm revamping The Wizard of Oz with an all-black cast in a super soul musical. Now, Cape Fear Regional Theatre is embracing the story and showcasing it as a part of their 2015-2016 season.
First time CFRT guest director Donna Baldwin-Bradby admits that this is her favorite show and her passion for the musical is evident in her excitement and that of her actors.
“I remember seeing this show thinking this little girl [Dorothy] looks like me. It changed my life,” said Baldwin-Bradby. “The journey that Dorothy goes through is like everyday life. You can get disheveled; you can go through what you think is the worst, but you are better in the end. That’s what I want the audience to know and feel.”
The story of Dorothy going through the tornado, landing in Oz, meeting her friends is all there in The Wiz, but fans of the original Baum work will find that it follows his story even closer than the 1939 film changing the iconic ruby red slippers to silver shoes, involving the four original witches as opposed to just the Wicked Witch of the West and the Good Witch of the North and more that avid book readers can identify with in this stage production. Those changes make this musical even more of a treat and challenge the audience to remember their favorite books from childhood.
Not only does the musical stay true to the original work, the audience may be surprised not to find an actual yellow brick road, a field of poppies or even stage effects creating a tornado. Those parts of the show are played by actors and dancers as moving parts making the show a thrilling way to spend a night — or afternoon.
“Almost everything is a person. The sets and the costumes are going to be amazing,” said TyNia Brandon playing Dorothy. “Everyone has a role and everyone is important to the show.”
The actors including Dorothy and adding in friends, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow, define an ensemble with easy chemistry where they admit that it doesn’t even feel like work. They are all just trying to be great, encouraged by a director who is also more of an educator.
“At the end of the day, our director has made us all a little brighter. My cup runneth over from being a part of this show,” said Fayetteville native T.J. Fields playing the Lion. This show was also groundbreaking because it helped celebrate black actors in a time where there were not many black roles and gave them a platform to showcase special music styles, dance and even life.
“There are so many cultural things involved that the entire audience may not grasp firsthand, but will love to experience,” said Deon Releford Lee, who plays the Tinman. “The set will have African Kente cloth and there is African dance incorporated. This musical is also a celebration of culture.”
As far as experiencing firsthand, the audience will also be encouraged to participate as the actors will use the entire theatre, not just the stage.
“This show is interactive. We will be in the aisles and we will encourage the audience to clap, dance and shout,” said Baldwin-Bradby, “This show will leave you recharged and energized when the curtain closes.”
The musical comes to life on Jan. 21 and runs through Feb. 14 with 2 p.m. matinees and 7:30 evening performances. Also available are limited seating “Lunch with Dorothy” tickets, where an hour before weekend matinee performances, those interested are encouraged to dress as their favorite character, have lunch in the Emerald City and meet The Wiz actors. Lunch tickets are $10. All performance tickets are $15-28 and are available at www.cfrt.org or by calling the box office at 910.323.4233. Ease on down!