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The REAL Stars of This 'Wiz'
by Jerome Weeks 19 Jul 2011

It’s not the moving audience sections – the ones that twirl around slowly onstage – that give the Dallas Theater Center-Dallas Black Dance production of ‘The Wiz’ its sense of fun. It’s a whip-cracking witch, a couple of showgirl Poppies and some butt-bopping crows.


Liz Mikel  being very good as a Bad Witch and a Good Witch in The Wiz

Forget the moving seating sections, the ones that spin audience members out on the stage in the Dallas Theater Center-Dallas Black Dance Theatre production of The Wiz. “Spin” is an over-enthusiastic adjective here. If you’re not seated in them, the pods function like a slow-and-frequently-interrupted carousel ride, which you watch someone else take.  (On the other hand, I know some elementary-school kids who would love them — which seems to be the point.)

But the moving pods also obscure the performers (you occasionally lose them amid the traffic congestion on stage) — except for a couple times when the decks are cleared and we get one of choreographer Christopher Lance Huggins’ big dance number like the tornado sequence or the song “A Brand New Day.”

And speaking of “A Brand New Day,” The Wiz waz never the strongest material. There are only two memorable tunes, “New Day” and “Ease on Down the Road.” Otherwise, musically, it’s Motown-extra-lite. Book-wise, director Kevin Moriarty was able to strip out enough material to get the show down to a zippy 90 minutes because he pretty much depends on our familiarity with the original Oz story to bridge any gaps on this Yellow Brick Road.

Nope, the real stars– beyond the ladies’-man Tin Man of Sydney James Harcourt, that is, and Liz Mikel, of course, who, because she plays good and bad witches, has carte blanche to steal everything in sight — no, as I was saying, the real stars are Wade Laboissonniere’s costumes. From the quilted Munchkins and showgirl Poppies to the leather-harnessed Flying Monkeys, Laboissonierre’s dressed-up Ozlanders give thiz Wiz some of the necessary fun, flair and spectacle.

But the Crows, bopping their butts in a barnyard funky chicken, are personal favorites.

All photos by David Leggett.