Energy, enthusiasm, and excitement made these two old reviewers want to “Ease on Down the Road” last night, as Hoof ‘n’ Horn opened The Wiz for an eight-performance run. This remarkable show debuted in Baltimore in 1974, before opening on Broadway the following year and won seven Tony Awards®. “It was an early example of Broadway’s mainstream acceptance of works with an all-black cast.” [Wikipedia] The book was written by William F. Brown, based on the The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) by L. Frank Baum. The music and lyrics were done by Charlie Smalls.
This show was co-directed by Elizabeth Bueti and Breon Robinson. There are some blocking problems that should be addressed. The opening scene is awkward between Dorothy and Aunt Em. Also, there are two high platforms on the set, left and right stage which were insufficiently used to justify their existence.
Some dances occur within the space between them, which squeezed the dancers too close. Moving these dances out to front stage would allow them to spread out more. Other than that, their work was precise and upbeat, resulting in an excellent, entertaining show.
Arianna Carr choreographed the dance corps with magnificent, contemporary steps and moves that draw recognition and cheers from the young audience. The “Tornado” dance sets the expectations of the audience high, and those expectations are met as the show proceeds.
Music director Autumn Blamoville manages the choral ensemble, who are terrific, supported by a 12-musician orchestra, led by co-directors Adam Beskind and Noah McKee, with the assistance of Devinne Moses.
Super costumes are created by Jessi Brooks and Jasmine Harris. The ensemble changes costumes often, and into spectacular colorful garbs expressing poppies, townsfolk, and other creatures. Dorothy’s companions, the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion wear fun, accurate garb.
Scenic designer Debora Cordero Martinez and projection designer Hannah Miao have created a utilitarian set, which might be used more. But the lovely projections that accompany scenes added another dimension to the storytelling.
Dorothy is played by Multy Oliver. Her sweet face and soulful voice make her perfect for the part. She makes Dorothy innocent and loving as she acquires her companions.
Marcus Nikosi Pierre-Louis as the Scarecrow sings his way into our hearts with “Born the Day Before Yesterday,” and continues to be a positive, lovable character throughout.
The Tin Man is portrayed by Daniel Sutton, who obviously has a lot of fun bringing the role to us. His rendition of “Slide Some Oil on Me” is clever and moving (pun intended,) He is also an agile dancer.
K.B. Dennis plays the Cowardly Lion and makes him a sweetheart of a character, but with a ferocious roar. He delivers his “Mean Ol’ Lion” and “Be a Lion” with a marvelous voice.
Simeon Holmes plays The Wiz himself with great self-confidence. He helps drive home the message of this show being created precisely as a paean to positivity with his delivery of “Believe in Yourself.”
Hoof ‘n’ Horn is a student-run theater organization from diverse areas of study at Duke University. This SOLD OUT production of The Wiz will be performed through Sunday, Feb. 9th, in the Sheafer Lab Theater in the Bryan Center on Duke University’s West Campus.
SECOND OPINION: Jan. 29th Durham, NC Duke Arts preview by Kennedy Ware: https://arts.duke.edu/news/black-art-and-wonderfulness-hoof-n-horns-the-wiz/.
Hoof ‘n’ Horn presents THE WIZ at 8 p.m. Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, 2 p.m. Feb. 2, 8 p.m. Feb. 6-8, and 2 p.m. Feb. 9 (Sensory Friendly Performance) in the Emma A. Sheafer Laboratory Theater in the Bryan Center, 125 Science Dr., Durham, North Carolina 27708, on Duke University’s West Campus.
TICKETS: All tickets are SOLD OUT, but a Wait List will form outside the theater, starting one hour prior to each performance.
SHOW: https://www.hoofnhorn.org/the-wiz, https://www.facebook.com/events/2461028254114436/, and https://tickets.duke.edu/.
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.facebook.com/HoofNHorn/videos/598599070960065/.
PRESENTER: https://www.hoofnhorn.org/, https://www.facebook.com/HoofNHorn, https://www.instagram.com/dukehoofnhorn/, and https://twitter.com/DukeHoofnHorn.
VENUE: https://dukeperformances.duke.edu/venues/sheafer-lab-theater/ and https://tickets.duke.edu/.
NOTE 1: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 31st, performance.
NOTE 2: The 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 9th, show will be a Sensory Friendly Performance.
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on Amazon.com. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori previously reviewed theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.