The second show of The Muny’s 100th anniversary season, “The Wiz” treats audiences to a refreshed production of the much loved reimagining of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” that’s filled with positive affirmations, can do attitude, and the irrepressibly infectious spirit of Danyel Fulton as Dorothy.
Adapted from L. Frank Baum’s children’s book, the story is still centered on young teen Dorothy and her adventures in a far away land. The orphaned Dorothy has come to Kansas to live with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, but she’s having trouble adjusting. Caught up in a tornado, Dorothy is transported to the magical Land of Oz, where she defeats one evil witch when she and her house land on her. Can she find her way home?
Fulton is captivating as the eager, young teen and her voice is powerful and strong, but she finds moments to show that she feels lonely and gets frightened at times, too. Though her dances are simple, Fulton excels at the acting and singing, which comes to a stunning conclusion with the beautifully interpreted and heartfelt “Home.”
The supporting characters are equally expert and compelling, bringing renewed energy and keeping the audience fully involved.
Jared Grimes is likeably befuddled as the Scarecrow who gains confidence and clarity with each passing thought. He and Fulton harmonize well and his loose, fluid dancing is trademark to the character. James T. Lane visually counters Grimes giving the Tinman a robotic style, even after he’s shaken off the rust, and “Slide Some Oil to Me” is a fun, jazzy number. As the Lion, Darius de Haas brings a big, bold voice and a pussycat demeanor to the comic, but oh so sympathetic role.
Demetria McKinney and E. Faye Butler are perfectly matched Aunt Em and Glinda and Addaperle and Evillene, respectively, and Nathan Lee Graham brings flash, style and a powerful voice as The Wiz. The three performers get some of the best vocal moments of the show, including “So You Wanted to Meet the Wizard,” “No Bad News,” and “Believe in Yourself.”
Director Denis Jones guides the show in ways that help each character standout, but he doesn’t neglect the rest of the cast. The ensemble is fully involved and the dances updated with new choreography arrangements by Zane Mark, with costumes by Leon Dobkowski that are vibrant and often glittering. New orchestrations by music director Darryl Archibald enhance the refreshed style musical, reinforcing the updated book and lyrics, by original author William F. Brown, his wife and contributor Tina Tippit and comedian/writer Amber Ruffin.
“The Wiz” is a perfect choice for families, musical lovers and anyone who appreciates a heroine that shines with kindness, common sense and a thoughtful, positive attitude. With fantastic performances and catchy songs that will keep you humming along, “The Wiz” finds many ways to entertain while delivering a positive message about being yourself and accepting others, too.
At The Muny through June 25. For more information, call 314-361-1900 or visit www.muny.org.
Photos courtesy of The Muny