Strong Singing And Dancing Make “The Wiz” A Winner At Black Rep

The Scarecrow, Lion, Dorothy and the Tinman "Ease On Down The Road" in the Black Rep production of "The Wiz." Photo: Stewart Goldstein

The Scarecrow, Lion, Dorothy and the Tinman “Ease On Down The Road” in the Black Rep production of “The Wiz.” Photo: Stewart Goldstein

Though not a strong show to begin with, “The Wiz” is transformed due to an impeccable cast at the Black Rep with plenty of energy, great singing voices and pinpoint choreography. It all blends to make a satisfying conclusion to their 2013 season. The score includes the charming “Ease On Down The Road” and the powerful “Brand New Day.”

Sisters Sarah and Sophia Stephens perform together with Sarah earning the yeoman role of Dorothy. She handles it with wide-eyed innocence and a spectacular singing voice that rings through the rafters of the old Grandel Square Theatre. She is poised and handles the acting and dancing chores as well as belting out the tuneful score. Her sister Sophia also shines but only briefly at show’s end when she enters as Glinda and also brings the house down with a smooth and silky singing voice.

Keith Tyrone as the Tinman loosens up after a shot of oil in "The Wiz" at the Black Rep. Photo: Stewart Goldstein

Keith Tyrone as the Tinman loosens up after a shot of oil in “The Wiz” at the Black Rep. Photo: Stewart Goldstein

It’s the old “Wizard of Oz” story with a funky beat. Although not as tight as the original, the colorful cast of characters are all there and each gets a moment or two to stand out. Nakischa Joseph gets things started on the right foot as Aunt Em as she professes her love for her niece in the touching song, “The Feeling We Once Had.” As the show gets on the “road,” so to speak, Dorothy encounters the Munchkins and a delightful performance by Linda Kennedy as the Good Witch Of The North- also known as Addaperle. She soon discovers the Scarecrow in search of a brain- played with magnificent pliability by Ian Coulter-Buford. His number, “I Was Born The Day Before Yesterday,” shows off his singing skills as well as his Ray Bolger-esqu dances.

The smooth and sassy Tinman is Keith Tyrone. His “Slide Some Oil To Me” is a sexy turn that features some more intricate moves on the dance. Finally, the Lion enters in the person of Herman Gordon (who doubles as Uncle Henry). His fierce demeanor soon turns to his true colors as a “scaredy-cat.” He, too, gets his moment in the spotlight as he introduces himself as a “Mean Ole Lion.”

Cedric Neal is a powerhouse as the all-talk, no-action Wiz. His numbers, “So You Wanted To Meet The Wizard” and, especially his second act blockbusters, “Believe In Yourself” and the rousing “Y’All Got It!” are both scene-stealers. Raphaelle Darden makes her evil presence known as Evillene- the Wicked Witch of the West and Daniel Hodges does some fine work as her underling as well as the skittish Gatekeeper.

Ian Coulter-Buford as the Scarecrow tells Dorothy (played by Sarah Stephens) why he needs a brain as the Yellow Brick Road looks on. Photo: Stewart Goldstein

Ian Coulter-Buford as the Scarecrow tells Dorothy (played by Sarah Stephens) why he needs a brain as the Yellow Brick Road looks on. Photo: Stewart Goldstein

Director Ron Himes keeps the pace moving with the only slow-downs being a few of the scene changes that could have been crisper. Choreographer Cecil Slaughter has done wonders with the driving music and he is blessed with a dancing chorus who is precision-perfect. Musical director Charles Creath does a fine job but it’s too bad they couldn’t have put some brass into it because this show really needs that driving sound that only a brass section can deliver. But he has the chorus singing and blending beautifully to match the power of the featured cast.

The clever Dunsi Dai set design works well and the inventive Sean Savoie lights are a wonderful complement to the proceedings. The colorful costumes of Sarita Fellows are right on the mark from the Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion costumes right through to the other principles and the wonderful orange “brick” overalls and yellow shoes and poles of the four gents playing the Yellow Brick Road.

This is a really good production with a lot going for it. Give them a call at 314-534-3810 and join in the rousing good time that is “The Wiz” at the Black Rep. It runs through June 30th.

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One Response to “Strong Singing And Dancing Make “The Wiz” A Winner At Black Rep”

  1. Lorraine Terry Says:

    congratulations to the director, cast and crew! have a phenomenal run!

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