has fine foursome, uncertain identity
Musicals at Richter is closing out its season with a curious choice and an even
more curious production of ``The Wiz.''
Wiz,'' a 1975 Broadway entry, is a retelling of Frank Baum's children's classic,
``The Wizard of Oz,'' conceived for an all-black cast and with a 1970s rock score
by Charles Smalls. William F. Brown's book translates the Midwestern flavor of
Dorothy and her friends into the hip attitudes and slang of urban blacks.
It might be workable
to stage ``The Wiz'' with an integrated cast _ as Richter has _ or even an all-white
cast. A young black actress named Tracee Beazer plays Dorothy and there are several
other black performers, but the majority of the cast is white.
Musicals at Richter and director J.D. Bauer had simply staged ``The Wiz'' as a
straight-forward musical, stripped of the attempts at street- wise attitudes and
jive talk by white performers _ which ring false here _ it would have fared better.
No one could
realistically expect any score to erase the memories of those wonderful songs
from the MGM film of ``Oz,'' but Small's music is '70s Muzak, a pastiche of soft
rock. ``Ease On Down the Road'' is the only hummable tune.
the good news. The actors playing Dorothy, the Tinman, the Cowardly Lion and the
Scarecrow couldn't be livelier. Beazer has a light, sweet voice and her Kansas
teen-ager is as polite as she is plucky.
E. Carter cuts an impressive figure as the Tinman, and his spirited choreography
for the show deserves high praise. His exuberance and dancing verve clearly have
rubbed off on the large chorus of young performers for they're an energized lot,
whether as Munchkins or Monkeys. Several boys, not identified in the musical numbers,
show off gymnastic skills with flips and daring leaps.
comic shtick of the Cowardly Lion is assigned to Paul Aguirre and he's as lovable
a scaredy cat as we've seen. Matthew LaBanca's considerable experience shines
through in his engaging turn as the limber-limbed Strawman.
successful are the magicless Wiz of Joe Merola; the brusque Evillene, the bad
witch, played by Denise A. Fitzsimmons; and Alyson Mayne's bland Glinda.
in the most professional of companies, the mock ballet meant to depict the tornado
is laughable; likewise, a coarse and silly number involving the Lion and some
leggy Poppies is as corny as a Vegas dance routine.
musical accompaniment at Richter continues to be one of the troupe's strongest
assets. Melissa Rodriquez at the keyboard conducts a six-piece combo that provides
smooth and rhythmic backup.
Cochrane's sets are amusing, especially a hubcap-encrusted throne for Evillene.
And Yvette Beausoleil has dressed the inhabitants of the merry old land of Oz
with imagination and splashes of technicolor.
dancing, fantastic adventures and the ebullience of the four Oz travelers will
provide satisfactory entertainment for most audiences, but this ``Wiz'' suffers
from a split personality. : ``The Wiz'' continues through Aug. 17 at Musicals
at Richter, Richter Park, 100 Aunt Hack Road, Danbury.
are Thursday through Sunday at 8:30 p.m. Grounds open at 7:15 for picnicking.
are $12 Thursday and Sunday, $10 for seniors and students; $14 Friday and Saturday,
$12 for students and seniors. For reservations, call 748-MUSE.