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Guest Blogger Sarah Crisman on 'The Wiz' at Dallas Theater Center

by Sarah Crisman 18 Jul 2011 12:32 PM

Guest blogger Sarah Crisman offers her thoughts on The Dallas Theater Center/Dallas Black Dance Theater collaboration The Whiz.


Guest blogger Sarah Crisman is a Denton-based music writer.

Performance Info


The art of collaboration is a crucial component to the success of a burgeoning community.   Thankfully this tenant is brilliantly on display at the Wyly Theatre with The Wiz, the dazzling firstborn love child of the Dallas Theater Center and the Dallas Black Dance Theatre.

With director Kevin Moriarty at the helm and Christopher Lance Huggins piloting the choreography, we have been gifted with an innovative and beautiful show.  Dallas has felt never felt more like the Land of Oz, all at once strange and familiar.  Easing down the Arts District brought back a flood of fond memories to this overactive imagination.  The detached wonderment of a dream state set in as soon as I stepped into the theater.  I was promptly escorted across the stage to my “pod seat” beneath ominous storm clouds.

“Remember to keep your hands and feet in the pod at all times,” warned the ushers.  Bright green slips of paper laid on the seats echoed the warning.  It felt much more like settling into a roller coaster than a theater seat.  From the start, it was clear we were at the brink of being swept into a wonderful adventure.

Trisha Jeffrey nimbly captures the vulnerability and determination of Dorothy, a character I have been obsessed with since my mother pointed my playpen in the direction of the film version of The Wiz. I had left my silver slippers and little dog behind for the evening, but Trisha’s wonderful performance and powerful voice drew the childlike wonderment L. Frank Baum intended.

As the storm blew in, the contemporary dancers twirled about in a most captivating twister.  The scrappy techs unhitched our “pods” and spun portions of the audience around like a farmhouse in a tornado.  This continued throughout the journey, providing a fresh perspective as the story progressed.  Hold on to your personal belongings and good luck sitting still (I, for one, seldom refrain from chair dancing).

The story of The Wiz would have been entirely remiss without the dance company breathing life into Charlie Smalls’ beloved scoring.  The juxtaposition of motion against the hilarity of the cast turned Oz into our 90-minute reality.  Liz Mikel, a member of the Theater Center’s resident acting company, was particularly captivating as both Addaperle/Evillene.  Up went the energy level of the entire theater when Mikel made her first robust entrance.  Similarly, David Ryan Smith fantastically embodied the Lion and garnered laughter with nearly every line.  Sydney James Harcourt brought a disarming swagger to his role as Tinman, with just enough innuendo to make a girl blush.  The Scarecrow has always been a favorite character, and James T. Lane has the spirit down to the last straw.  The Wizness himself, Hassan El-Amin, also a company member, is loveable and bumbling as the preacher-turned- wizard should be.

I found it difficult to pull my eyes away from the dancers as they carried the show along.  While many of the actors are in town from New York for the run, the Dallas Black Dance Theatre lives here!  They click their heels together and I am filled with a new appreciation for home.