Not every December stage production in Maryland is holiday-themed. In fact, some of our best companies are doing some of their best work with shows that would promise absolute delight no matter the time of year. Offering ample proof of this is Baltimore’s own ArtsCentric, an organization well known for high-quality and high-energy productions during their residency at Motor House in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District. This fall they moved a half dozen blocks north, to the former home of Single Carrot Theatre, and the first offering in their new home is a dazzling rendition of William F. Brown and Charlie Smalls’ “The Wiz”.
Williams and the entire ensemble have packed an enormous spectacle into two and a half hours at ArtsCentric. “The Wiz” is not to be missed!
Director Kevin S. McAllister and an outstanding creative team have created a whirling dervish of a presentation; a great many shifting perspectives, changing worlds, and frenzied happenings are gorgeously and clearly represented by expert command of color and shadow (kudos to Lighting Designer Cedric White and Projection Designer Patrick W. Lord) and scenery (by designer Emily Lotz) that’s incredibly versatile in limited stage space. Completing the jaw-dropping visuals are Larry Munsey’s costume design – imaginative and spot-on at every turn – and Shalyce N. Hamby’s choreography, which combines elements of every kind of dance from ballet to hip-hop.
The cast is first-rate. Bryan Jeffrey as the Scarecrow performs some of the most fluid and accomplished movement work we’ve seen in years; his pratfalls in particular, when Dorothy frees him from suspension, are gravity-defying stunt work disguised as dance, pretending to be simple blocking. The Tin Man, Antonio Chase, beautifully executes a full transition from “oh no, I’m stuck” to – once he’s been adequately oiled – a wonderful tap routine. Ryan Gholson, the Lion, is a gifted and expressive singer. The witches are delightful: Kelli Blackwell as Addaperle (the good witch of the north) is charming and kindly, even when her magic fails to work 100%. Her character’s sister, Glinda (IO Browne), is excruciatingly marvelous. And the wicked Evilene (Kenyatta Hardison) is sinister in a corset that looks like the inside of the Paper Moon Diner. Terrance Fleming is a bombastic, preacher-ish Wizard with James Brown moves.
As Dorothy, Kanysha Williams is a treat for the eyes and ears. A wonderful singer who scarcely needs amplification, she delivers her character with a perfect recipe of childlike wonder, hope, and yearning. Williams and the entire ensemble have packed an enormous spectacle into two and a half hours at ArtsCentric. “The Wiz” is not to be missed!
Advisory: Flashing lights, fog/haze.
Running Time: 155 minutes with intermission.
“The Wiz” runs through January 21 at ArtsCentric, 2600 North Howard Street, Baltimore. For tickets call (410) 205-5130 or purchase online.