15 - 24 March, 2007 Venue Capilano College Performing
Arts Theatre Reviewer John Jane
Exit22, named after exit 22 on the Trans-Canada Highway in North Vancouver, is the production arm of the Capilano College Theatre Arts Program. It provides an opportunity for students to participate in all facets of live theatre production.
The program’s current production, The Wiz was originally conceived in the seventies as an all-black gospel music version of The Wizard of Oz that had Diana Ross starring as an adult Dorothy and Michael Jackson as Scarecrow.
Exit22’s adaptation essentially follows the same plotlines as the L. Frank Baum classic but with a whole lot more attitude with elements of the story such as “the yellow brick road” and the “tornado” taking on human form and performed as high-energy, loosely choreographed dance routines.
With the help of a 16-piece band, known collectively as “KMC (Kevin Michael Cripps) and the Wizards of Funk” the music was brought home with appropriate ardour. The singing was the weakest aspect but solo performances may have suffered from a less than perfect sound system.
Gillian Barber’s staging was a visual feast and Kim Bothen's costume designs were extravagantly colourful. At times, less might have been more; the show does tend to be over-produced, so the message gets lost in the razzle-dazzle. But this in no way detracted from the fun factor and the shear joy of performing by cast members was obvious.
With around thirty performers giving their all, some even covering multiple roles, identifying individual stand-out performances is difficult. Although personally, I really enjoyed the deliciously over-the-top offering by Laura Koberstein in the titular role and Elicia Mackenzie as the leather-clad dominatrix, Evillene was pure camp.
Amanda Williamson was a safe choice as the wide-eyed Dorothy who really delivered throughout. Her singing of "Home" that closed the show drew appreciative applause from an exuberant opening night audience.
Aided by a hard-working young cast of theatre arts students, Gillian Barber has pulled together a brash and high-spirited production that audiences cannot fail to enjoy.
© 2007 John Jane