Westfield High School
There's no place like home but the Emerald City, home of the inimitable Wiz, is still a close second. In Clarksburg High school's sensational deluge of color and song, the yellow brick road shimmered as it showed the way on a journey to meet the Wiz.
The show is based on the book written by L. Frank Baum in 1900 titled The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It is a soul-inspired adaptation of the classic story based on the book by William F. Brown and music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls. The show first opened on Broadway in 1975 and won 7 Tony awards including best musical.
The show follows the quirky adventures of Dorothy as she lands in Oz and tries to get home to Kansas. Along the way she assembles a motley group of companions and together they set out to meet the Wiz, each with their own specific request. But does the Wiz have the power to grant their requests? Or does that power reside elsewhere?
The soulful performance of Jeanne Lubika as the sincerely sweet Dorothy was a powerful example of barefaced talent and stellar vocals. Lubika's open portrayal of her character used sincere actions and caring chemistry to show the selflessness of her character. Lubika's seamless combination of theatrical prowess in acting, singing, and dancing made her role a magnetic tour de force on the stage. The great and powerful Wiz was played by Ydiany Quiroz with majesty and aloof grandeur. Quiroz's commanding presence on the stage and her authoritative delivery of her lines showed the Wiz's haughty attitude. The shift Quiroz played from her original ice queen Wiz to the vulnerable, open Wiz at the end of the show was a believable transformation and added depth to her character.
Dorothy's three trusted friends the Scarecrow (Nema Kebbeh), the Tinman (Ricky Cardenas), and the Lion (Nelson Chen) established a hilarious bond that was grew ever more visible as they performed. Each actor developed a distinct personality for his character and the personalities of all of three complimented each other to the point that the friendship gained a genuine hint of reality. As the charismatic Tinman, Cardenas showed his character's magnetic talent belting and tapping his way through his entrancing song "Slide Some Oil to Me". Kebbeh's sarcastically witty portrayal of the Scarecrow was remarkably clever for a character without any brains. Finally, Chen's large physicalization and expert comedic timing of the nervous and fashion-forward Lion made the timidly idiosyncratic character a hilariously stand-out presence.
The technical wizardry of this show was accomplished to magical perfection. The lighting, designed by Mikayla Lynch, was used almost as scenery. The cyclorama in the back changed colors according to the scene or setting, making the lighting a big part of setting the stage. Also impressive was the intricately detailed make-up, headed by Abigail Sigler. Most notable was the Wiz's defined contour to show her majestic character and Evillene's (Sofia Tobares) dramatic look. The fanciful costumes, designed by Annie Avendt, showed that Dorothy definitely was not in Kansas anymore. The striking green dress worn by the Wiz added pizzazz, and the modern take on Dorothy's classic blue-checkered look, with shorts instead of a dress, was inspired.
The wizardry and immortal power of this heartwarming tale is still evident in every glitter of the emerald city, every bat of a monkey's wings, and every click of Dorothy's slippers. Clarksburg high school eased us down the road of fantasy, in its shimmering, spellbinding production of The Wiz.
McLean High School
When ruby slippers become silver Vans and witches take Ubers, you'll know you're not in Kansas anymore! At Clarksburg High School's "The Wiz," Dorothy and Toto ease on down the yellow brick road in a brand new adventure.
Originating as L. Frank Baum's 1900 populist children's novel, "The Wiz" updates the story of "The Wizard of Oz" to reflect the struggles of the African-American community. A highly successful 1975 Broadway production spawned the more well-known film version in 1978, which starred Diana Ross and Michael Jackson and, though it was initially deemed a failure, went on to become a cult classic. Though the story remains unchanged from the beloved Judy Garland film, music by Charles Smalls features jazz and soul influences, putting a modern twist on the story of Dorothy's trip to Oz.
Glowing with youthful innocence, our story centered around Jeanne Lubika's headstrong, dynamic Dorothy as she attempted to find her way home. Along her way, she encountered the sassy Scarecrow (Nema Kebbeh), the flirtatious Tin Man (Ricky Cardenas), and the cowardly, yet lovable Lion (Nelson Chen). Though these characters paid homage to the originals, they also possessed diverse traits that made them delightfully quirky and fun to watch as an ensemble. In particular, Ricky Cardenas's pop-style vocals and tap dancing skills shone in "Slide Some Oil to Me," a lively, funk-filled spin on "If I Only Had a Heart."
The Land of Oz would not be complete without a myriad of witches and wizards and even mice (oh my!). As the eponymous Wiz, Ydiany Quiroz, trailed by a glorious green cape, subverted gendered expectations and created an imperious persona that dissolved into vulnerability in the final scenes of the show. Ensemble members played many different characters, carrying distinct energies with each new scene, and even communicated unbridled happiness during the joyous freeing of the Winkies. Renee Agben as Auntie Em opened the show on an incredibly strong note, with vocals to rival any soul singer in "The Feeling We Once Had."
With a minimalistic and versatile set, technical elements of "The Wiz" piqued the audience's imagination with colored lights and interesting silhouettes. From a rainbow playing across the cyclorama to a pair of fog machines that simulated fire, each element brightly converged to make up Oz. A unique facet of the production was the use of real-time American Sign Language interpreters who excellently signed alongside the action, promoting the accessibility of the arts to the hearing-impaired community.
Clarksburg's "The Wiz" is not just a fairy tale. It reflects the voice of an era, the outcry of a community told through the lives of familiar characters. For Dorothy, home is not a place, but an idea: the idea that you can grow up but retain your sense of hope, and all you have to do to get there is believe in yourself.