Long before there was Harry Potter, children were reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The classic book by L. Frank Baum has been adapted into several movies and plays, including The Wiz, now playing at the Toby’s Dinner Theatre of Baltimore.
The Wiz seems at home in Baltimore. After all, it had its pre-Broadway tryout in Baltimore, opening on October 21, 1974 at the Morris A. Mechanic Theatre. The show then moved to the Majestic Theatre on Broadway on January 5, 1975.
…so lively and fun that it will make your head spin and your heart pound.
Winner of seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical, The Wiz is a soulful retelling of the classic story about Dorothy (played by a winsome Ashley Johnson) who gets tossed into the land of Oz when her farmhouse in Kansas gets hit by a tornado. There she meets three new friends: the Scarecrow (played by a limber Bryan Daniels), the Tinman (played with heart by Marquise White), and the Lion (Tobias Young) who is more like a scaredy cat.
Dorothy and her friends all want something (I think you already know what they all want.) and Addaperie, the Good Witch of the North (Shayla Lowe) promises that The Wiz (Jonathan Randle) can grant their requests.
Directed by popular actor Kevin McAllister, he keeps the pacing of the show almost as fast as a tornado, with dancing (choreographed by Shalyce Hemby) and music (musically directed by Cedric D. Lyles) that is so lively and fun that it will make your head spin and your heart pound.
Adding to the excitement are the funky costumes designed by Lawrence B. Munsey. My favorite costume is the Yellow Brick Road. Each of the actors playing the part (Antonio Beverly, Ana King, and Parris Lacey) wear yellow body suits with painted bricks outlined in black and yellow fringe along the right arm. Yellow afro wigs complete the look.
What would the story of Oz be without the villain? Kelli Blackwell is devilishly evil as Evillene. Her heartless attitude is shown in the song “No Bad News” where no one dare tell her anything but what she wants to hear. What we do like to hear is Kelli’s voice. She is a very strong singer, accenting all the right lyrics.
Other favorite singers include Ashley Johnson as Dorothy singing a touching “Soon As I Get Home” and Marquise White as the Tinman singing a soulful “Slide Some Oil To Me.” Saving the best for last, Crystal Freeman as Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, sparkles when she sings “A Rested Body is a Rested Mind” and “Believe in Yourself” at the end of act two.
Toby’s always features a live pit orchestra. The band led by Cedric D. Lyles is professional and top notch. I dare to say that listening to these fine musicians is worth the price of admission alone! Not to mention the energetic ensemble of performers who work very hard dancing to all the songs which must be equivalent to a long aerobic workout at the gym!
So have the brains, heart, and courage to see The Wiz! Once you do, you will find that there’s no place like Toby’s Dinner Theatre!
Running Time: Approximately Two hours and 30 minutes, with one intermission.
The Wiz plays through April 28, 2013 at Toby’s Dinner Theatre of Baltimore— 5625 O’Donnell Street in Baltimore, MD. For tickets call the box office at (410) 649-1660 or purchase them online.