THE WIZ: Book, William F Brown; Music and Lyrics, Charlie Small
Birmingham Rep (at the Alexandra Theatre to 18 June
West Yorkshire Playhouse 24 June – 16 July
Runs: 2h, one interval
Review: Rod Dungate, 14 June, Alexandra Theatre
A very good event, which could have been sensationalTHE WIZ is great fun – what more could you want? . . . THE WIZARD OF OZ without the Munchkins – bliss. It’s a feel-good score (if not entirely memorable) and in this joint Birmingham Rep and Yorkshire Playhouse production there are excellent and highly energised performances. All this going for it, yet the production lacks the directorial imaginative verve that would lift it into the sensational.
THE WIZ was created as a Black updating of its famous parent; irreverently celebrating the original. Many in the company grab opportunities for modern cultural references but director, Josette Bushell-Mingo has not made the most of the company’s opportunities and the wicked irreverence comes across as half-hearted.
Treyc Cohen (of X Factor fame) plays Dorothy. She has a great, strong singing voice, which is a huge bonus in the show. But when will producers, directors and casting directors come to grips with the fact that three skills are needed in Musical Theatre – and one of them is acting. And acting Cohen can’t do, not at all. She is constantly with three very strong performers and is a bit like a vacuum in their midst.
Wayne Robinson, Horace Oliver, Clive Rowe are the fabulous trio of Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion. Rowe gets the Tinman off to a flying start with a tap-dance – how much we want to see it again, later (but we are disappointed.) Robinson is wonderful, bringing a heartbreaking naïveté to his Scarecrow. Ten seconds after Robinson opens his mouth to sing, you know you are in for something really special. What a disappointment, though, in his first big number he is totally let down by sound technicalities, sadly under-mixed his beautiful voice is lost beneath band, then ensemble. Amplification lets the show down at regular intervals.
Finally, the Community Ensemble. They’re great to a man and a woman. Energetic, stylish, accurate, and faces and bodies expressing delight all the way through. I adore their first appearance; looking as if they’re all dressed from failing charity shops they combine poverty and style.
Glinda / Evilene: Allyson Ava-Brown
Dorothy: Treyc Cohen
Addaperle / Aunt Em: Melanie La Barrie
The Tinman: Horace Oliver
The Scarecrow: Wayne Robinson
The Lion : Clive Rowe
The Wiz: Peter Straker
Ensemble: Emmah Beckford, Bhawna Bhawsar, Alanna Boden, Kayleigh Cottam, Darren Haywood, Adrian Jarrett, Chris Keating, Zabeer Rayn Khan, Antoinette Matthews, Michael Neri, Zara Phillips, Sophie Poulton, Vicki Roberts, Aaron Virdee, Kate Weiler
Director: Josette Bushell Mingo
Choreographer: Paul J Medford
Musical Direcgtor and Orchestraion: George Dyer
Designer: Rosa Maggiora
Lighting Designer: Philip Gladwell
Sound Designer: Ed Clarke
Projection Designer: Mic Pool
Casting Director: Pippa Ailion
Associate Director: Rae Mcken
Associate Choreographer: Susan Lawson Reynolds
Magic Consultant: Richard Pinner
Fight Arranger: Terry King
Voice / Dialect Coach: Joe Windley