Date and Venue 21-30 April @ 8pm | Performance Works, Granville Island, Vancouver
Reviewer Ed Farolan
Give Ryan Mooney any musical and he converts it to magic. That's what he did on opening night of this hit Broadway musical which made a hit again here in Vancouver with a brand-new take, a hip hop version of the classicThe Wizard of Oz.
Originally titled The Wiz: The Super Soul Musical "Wonderful Wizard of Oz" with music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls and book by William F. Brown, its original context was African American, and it opened on October 21, 1974 at the Morris A. Mechanic Theatre in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1978, it was later made into a film starring Diana Ross as Dorothy and Michael Jackson as Scarecrow.
In the Vancouver production, the musical is updated to make it more 21st centuryish. Veteran actress and singer, Jennifer Suratos, playing "The Wiz" like "magical" Oprah Winfrey, was a fantastic lookalike and mimicked OW to the T, while Jenny Moase as Evilline, is the despot Sarah Palin, the evil witch from Ozlaska. Moase, in my opinion, was the show stealer.
I enjoyed the energy, the gusto, the love of theatre that these young thespians displayed: the acrobatics of Lucas Blaney (Scarecrow), the transvestite transformation of Sean Parsons (Lion), the soulful singing of Nick Fontaine (Tin Man), and the childlike innocence of Arielle Tuliao (Dorothy). I was also delighted by the Lady Gaga imitation of Brittany Scott (Addaperle) and the lovely voice and sexy features of Emily Canavan (Glinda).
I remember many of the ensemble dancers/singers from last season's Hair, and they were all fabulous and full of elan. Choreographer Dawn Ewen did a fantastic job with the dance numbers, and Musical Director Christopher King did a superb job with the songs and music.
Mooney, who was dressed in a red tie and red basketball runners, encouraged the opening night audience to help out by buying raffle tickets, saying the company lives off box office receipts, and a few sponsors here and there, donations, and occasional grants. This has, and always has been, the plight of community theatres here in Vancouver.
FCP promised that The Wiz was going to be successful, and it did in fact deliver as promised. I won't be surprised if this musical sells out just as Sweeney Todd sold out last year. So be sure you don't miss your chance to catch this show.
© 2011 Ed Farolan