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“The Wiz” – A Review of the Spring Musical

It’s that time of the year again! MSJ’s Spring Musical has concluded, and it’s time to go through and nit-pick everything that happened during the show.

DSC_6368Well, not really, but what I am going to do is give you all the highs and lows of this year’s show, The Wiz. The show ran through the weekend of April 16th starting Friday night at 7 PM and ending on Sunday at 2 PM, and I am basing my review on the Saturday night performance.

We can start with the actual Music/Pit Band performance. The music was great! The band was able to create emotions with their instruments to an extremely high degree. Shout-out to Chris Arreza, ’17, who did an amazing job playing the drums during the performance. If there were any negatives, it would be that the band played a bit too loud, making it hard to hear the actors throughout the performance.

On to our first role: Dorothy, played by MDSA junior Azaria Oglesby. She commanded the stage and the audience’s attention throughout the whole performance. Having a great amount of power in her voice helped her achieve this. One thing that I noticed was how committed she was throughout the whole thing, especially in the choreography. Never missing a beat, she danced in circles around some of the other actors, to her benefit and their deficit. Even while running throughout all of the Marion Burk Knott Fine Arts Center, she was able to stay  on beat and hit every note. Great job Azaria!DSC_6824_crop

We move on to the role of Aunt Em, played by MDSA senior Meghan Hanlon. In Cinderella, she was an A+ actress, but I think this role was a less than perfect match. Aunt Em seems to be a huge role vocally needing a huge range to sing. “The Feeling We Once Had,” which is a song in the very beginning of the show, is basically a solo. It is a very challenging song, and in my opinion, it was a little pitchy. However, her characterization and acting was excellent and reminded us of the great performances of past. Overall, it was a solid performance. She pushed through and gave it her all. Well done and good luck in your future performances Meghan!

DSC_7545Moving onto our first MSJ performer: Mark Haver, ’16. The role of the Tinman is one of the most important in the show.  Mark brought something to the MSJ stage that I had yet to see, tap dancing. In his introductory scene/song, “Slide Some Oil To Me,” he separated himself from the rest of the group when he broke out into dance. His voice was also the epitome of what a Broadway voice sounds like: vibrato, drama, and attitude.

“Steeeeeeeeeeeeeve” could be heard throughout the whole auditorium when MSJ fan favorite Steven “Big Steve” Alford, ’16, bowed to the crowd at the end of the performance. Steve was able to get the crowd laughing, especially with the line, “Imma get the hell outta here!” It was definitely cool seeing a 6’1″, 340-lb lineman on the MSJ stage (Yes Steve, I know you’re going to read this, and yes, I looked at your Hudl to get those stats, lol.). From his performance you would have had no idea that it was his first musical while in high school. There were some times though where the choreography seemed a little fuzzy,  but who am I kidding? It was awesome! Congrats Steve on a job well done, and good luck at McDaniel!

DSC_6612One actor that seemed particularly well-cast to me was senior Kyle Starling as the Scarecrow. He played the character with mindlessness and humor totally appropriate for the part. There were times when I lost Kyle on the stage, and that was a real shame. He had the most stage time with Dorothy compared to all the other roles, and I thought his solid performance suffered a bit simply by its comparison to Azaria’s star turn. Also, I felt like the acting like the Scarecrow couldn’t walk was way overdone. It was funny the first 2 times, but continuing to do so 3/4 of the way through got a little old. On the other hand, Kyle did use some excellent comedic timing though in his dialogue which really got people laughing and enjoying the show. Although mixed, I think it was a positive performance! Good luck Kyle in your future theatre productions!

DSC_7732_cropLet’s continue and look at the role of the Wiz, played by MSJ junior Connor Hurley. Again I felt mixed about this performance. I didn’t quite get this characterization/interpretation of the Wizard, which I think needed a little explanation. Just imagine Evel Knievel and David Bowie having a child. That’s what this was like. It wasn’t a major problem though, and I might be the only person who felt this way. The actual performance Connor displayed was very well-executed. He definitely made the most out of the time he was on stage. And Connor once again brought that great Broadway-esque voice that the MSJ stage has now heard for some time. Bravo!DSC_6708

Bridget Edmondson, my favorite actress from MDSA’s Cinderella, once again put on a performance for us that night. It wasn’t a very big role, but she definitely made the most of being Evillene (Wicked Witch of the West). “Shut Up!” rang throughout, and the laughter quickly followed. Bridget has great comedic timing which benefits her no matter how big her role is. Could I say it was enough to be a repeat of my favorite individual performance? The answer is no, it just wasn’t enough. If she would have had any more stage time, she probably would have stolen the show again for me. Way to go Bridget!

DSC_6982The Good Witches of the North and South were played by Seton Keough junior Pria Graham and MDSA senior Amelia Congedo, respectively. Both had pretty small roles but together did a great job in adding to the play. Pria was able to bring in a modern feel that just added to the performance and freshened it all up. Amelia sang a beautiful ballad while on stage and was visually captivating in an elegant costume to fit the part.

Other notably positive performances were that of senior Peter McKernan (Royal Gatekeeper), those who performed the Poppy Field Dance, and my dear friend Greg Rogers (Leader of the Winged Monkeys).

DSC_6398My expectations for this musical were pretty high. Coming off a great Winter musical (Cinderella), I thought that all of a sudden his would become a Broadway cast. And I also didn’t do my research. When I heard that this musical was written in an urbanized vernacular, I expected it to be 21st century, R&B or Hip Hop style music. The Wiz was written and originally shown in the 70’s, which explains why I felt like the urbanized feel I expected didn’t shine through. If I were to do one thing to improve the musical for today’s audience, it would be to update the music to a more modern style of R&B and Hip Hop, just so the modern idea of urbanized would show through and make it more contemporary.

The cast did a good job and I was entertained, and that’s all I can ask for. I rate it 4 stars out of 5.

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