‘The Wiz’ on Broadway review: Fun at the expense of a cohesive story

The latest cover of “The Wiz” is just meant to be fun. And that’s a problem.

The original was a rarity. When it opened in 1975, the musical won the Tony Award for Best Musical and at the time was one of a handful of Broadway productions featuring an all-black ensemble. Moving, rich, imbued with color and magic, the original offered a dynamism never seen before. Songs like “Home” and the funky “Ease on Down the Road” are etched into the American songbook.

Promoted as “The Wiz” through “Blackest of Black Lenses” in a New York Times article, the new revival that just opened on Broadway is in touch with its heritage, providing an enjoyable experience. But ultimately, this “Wiz” is adrift. The production is all about creating entertainment and signaling darkness, at the cost of a coherent artistic vision.

In the adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy (Nichelle Lewis) wears slippers again (silver, not ruby ​​red) picking up a group of friends (Avery Wilson, Phillip Johnson Richardson and Kyle Ramar Freeman) as they travel to find the great and powerful wizard (Wayne Brady) who can solve all problems. The harmonies and solos frequently receive enthusiastic applause, a testament to the generous talent of the ensemble. Lewis is a delicate Dorothy, delivering a beautiful and emotional rendition of the tender song “Home.” Melody A. Betts, as Aunt Em and the wicked witch Evillene, is a powerhouse, bringing humor and vocal prowess to the gospel “Don’t Nobody Bring Me No Bad News.” Brady is an energetic and hilarious magician, fully capturing his larger-than-life persona. Freeman is hysterical as Lion, frequently causing bursts of laughter in the theater.

But the sound of the music is overwhelming. A given artist’s voice is often swallowed up by diving orchestrations. Song after song brings out the singers (Deborah Cox, who plays Glinda, was almost inaudible during her verse on “He’s the Wiz,” a real shame considering her rich abilities.) With performers forced to sing and scream, the routine becomes more and more familiar.

Director Schele Williams’ choices are equally frustrating. The revival lacks synergy between the images. The projections and props to move us through the locations make Oz look generic and cheap.

Set designer Hannah Beachler, known for her work on the Black Panther series, borrows from a series of black-inspired images: the colorful houses of black New Orleans, the Adinkra symbols carved into the trees. Afropicks and power fists adorn the Wiz’s green throne. But they are piecemeal and never integrate into a sustained vision.

For a musical full of visuals, Williams neglects to illustrate the significant moments. There is no yellow brick road, one of the most unique images in the musical. It is replaced by dancers dressed in yellow guard outfits printed with the image of a road. Their standard entrance and exit gets boring, especially when their choreography doesn’t quite fill out the rest of the stage.

We also never fully see Dorothy return home to her aunt (the play ends at the moment she arrives home). And Evillene’s meltdown occurs atop a scaled tower, so viewers only see faint wisps of smoke to know that she has been – rather quickly – defeated.

The four protagonists of the musical are often relegated to the sidelines of the stage or blocked by the members of the dancing ensemble. The choreography by JaQuel Knight, known for his work with Beyoncé, is a crowd-pleaser: a mix of twirls, occasional twerks and lifts. But just like other elements of the series, there is no distinct connection to the narrative.

The original book by William F. Brown has been updated by comedian Amber Ruffin, whose jokes are sometimes funny (although the one where Evillene is afraid of getting her silk press wet is a bit cringe-inducing). Ruffin wastes no time explaining his humor, allowing those of We who gets it to get it.

But the dramaturgical questions surrounding Dorothy remain behind the wall of jokes. Why does Dorothy suddenly consider Kansas “home,” especially after sharing her profound isolation in the hellish rural landscape? How does Dorothy feel throughout her own journey, especially since most of her dialogue is used to continually encourage her friends? These fundamental questions go unanswered in search of good times, and Dorothy is pushed to the periphery of her own story.

In many ways, “The Wiz” is a charming watch. It’s nice to feel the audience really entertained. But his commitment to cheerfulness leads him down an extremely difficult path.

The magician, currently underway at the Marquis Theater in New York. 2 hours 30 minutes, including an intermission. wizmusical.com

Gn entert
News Source : www.washingtonpost.com


With a penchant for words, Eleon Smith began writing at an early age. As editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he honed his skills telling impactful stories. Smith went on to study journalism at Columbia University, where he graduated top of his class.After interning at the New York Times, Smith landed a role as a news writer. Over the past decade, he has covered major events like presidential elections and natural disasters. His ability to craft compelling narratives that capture the human experience has earned him acclaim.Though writing is his passion, Eleon also enjoys hiking, cooking and reading historical fiction in his free time. With an eye for detail and knack for storytelling, he continues making his mark at the forefront of journalism.
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