Reviewed by Robin Schwartzkopf
Everyone knows the story of The Wizard of Oz. Whether you are familiar with the original book, movie, or the musical Wicked, the tale remains a classic amongst adults and children alike. In this musical retelling of the classic story, audience members are illuminated by the magic of The Wiz from SPARC.
I have been to many a SPARC show and enjoyed each more than the last. This play was no exception. With a range of kids aged from fourth grade to high school, The Wiz was a joyful reminder of the magic of Oz. Whisked into the fantastic world by a lively and creative tornado, Dorothy (played by Tyandria Ford Jackson) must find her way to the majestic Emerald City with the help of friends Scarecrow (Matthew Pettus), Tin Man (Jonathan Brown), and Lion (Brian Lampley) to ultimately find her way back to Kansas. But everyone knows that. But did you know that the Good Witch of the North, Addeperle (played perfectly by Ayana Williams), was a sassy magician? Or that the crows that taunt Scarecrow endlessly are the cutest little things in all of Oz – yes, even cuter than the Munchkins? I didn’t think so.
Adding to the diversely talented and extremely gifted cast of primary characters are act two standouts Clarissa Carter and Tyrell Thompson, who play the Wicked Witch of the West and The Wiz himself, respectively.
This production brings everything to the table. Intricate and artistically staged dance numbers that ignite the room like the “Tornado Ballet” and “Kalidah Battle” entertain all. Other songs like “I Was Born on the Day Before Yesterday” from Scarecrow, ”Slide Some Oil on Me” from Tin Man, and “Mean Ole Lion” are funny, sure, but they also incorporate modern dance choreography that’s fresh and innovative. I wasn’t surprised to read that Jonathan Brown (Tin Man) is studying dance at Appomattox Regional Governor’s School or that Matthew Pettus (Scarecrow) performs with the Richmond Ballet’s Minds in Motion troupe.
Not only does The Wiz have it all, but the venue it’s playing at is just right for the family. SPARC Center on Hamilton Street is a cozy little black box set-up where kids can get up close and personal and at times during The Wiz, some of the characters interact (just the right amount) with lucky members of the audience. While the emotions elicited by the play span a wide range, there’s nothing scary here to worry younger kids. Even those pesky flying monkeys are more artsy than creepy. The show runs about two hours including a 15-minute intermission.
SPARC impresses once again, with The Wiz – theatre by children taken to the next level. I highly recommend you catch it at SPARC Center this Thursday, March 21 through March 24. Visit http://sparconline.tix.com for tickets.