Kokandy Productions Presents THE WIZ – Joyful Soultrain to Oz

Kokandy Productions THE WIZ
(left to right) Sydney Charles, Gilbert Domally, Chuckie Benson and Steven Perkins in Kokandy Productions’ revival of THE WIZ, directed by Lili-Anne Brown with music direction by Jimmy Morehead. Photo by Michael Brosilow

Hop onboard the yellow brick road to Oz, paved with catchy music from Gospel to Soul to rock (Jimmy Morehead, Music Director), kitschy costumes that totally charm (Virginia Varland, Costume Designer), Broadway style dance moves galore that sometimes wink at you with the likes of minuet moments and square dance doh-see-dohs (Breon Arzell, Choreographer), and so many golden chords that you meet your inner musical Midas.

The journey starts at an imagined Southside project called Kansas, replete with a metal chain basketball hoop, graffiti and every type sidewalk scene and street character you can imagine.

WOW! Opener

You know right off the bat that Lili-Anne Brown’s direction is making this one fun journey that goes right to the soul of L. Frank Baum’s story.   Then, when Nicole Michelle Haskins summons her first song as Aunt Em pulling, Dorothy (Sydney Charles) to her bosom she pulls us in too.  

It’s the WOW opening that lets you know what’s in store.

Kokandy Productions THE WIZ
Nicole Michelle Haskins plays two roles. Here as the evil witch Evillene, and also in the opening as Aunt Em Photo: Michael Brosilow
Kokandy Productions THE WIZ
Triple threat Gilbert Domally as the scarecrow gives a performance that makes you long for more. Photo: Michael Brosilow

Overflowing with Talent- a Kokandy Productions trademark

Primed as you now are for a good time, soon Gilbert Domally as the Scarecrow begins to sing and dance the WOW! and fun ratchets up even higher.   You too may find yourself a tad disappointed at the conclusion of The Wiz that Domally’s part isn’t larger to help shine a light on his triple threat talent.

But the talent show continues as singer-actor star after singer-actor star joins wide-eyed Dorothy on her journey. Steven Perkins sings the soulful Tinman and Chuckie Benson‘s Lion has a different more classical voice and add just the right tail-clutching fear to make his funniest of funny lines about his owl psychiatrist into a hoot you will carry with you out the theater door forever.

Kokandy Productions THE WIZ
Soulful singing by Steven Perkins as the Tinman Photo: Michael Brosilow
Kokandy Productions THE WIZ
Angela Alise in African-styled high head wrap as Addaperle, the witch who dispatches Dorothy on her journey Photo: Michael Brosilow

Expect too a lot of fun shtick in this production from the witches‑—Angela Alise as the somewhat stoned Addaperle who dispatches Dorothy to Oz, her sister Glinda who summons a pink-haired Whitney Houston to life, and Nicole Michelle Haskins returning as a dominatrix Evilene—and equally from Frederick Harris in the title role Wiz.

 

Kokandy Productions THE WIZ
(foreground) Frederick Harris as the title role WIZ Photo: Michael Brosilow

Ensemble Rocks

How fun too that the singing and dancing ensemble comes in all sizes and shapes and elastically transforms from people in the ‘hood, to cyclone simulating ballet, to monkeys, to poppy purveyors,to shaded Emerald City hipsters and more (Breon Arzell, Kyrie Courter, TJ Crawford, Desmond Gray, Jyreika Evelyn Guest, De’Jah Perkins, Tia Pinson, and Michael Rawls).

The entire cast HAS to be noted because this production shows that they are talents all.  

While many a musical production in the Belmont Theater District get their sizzle by bringing big Broadway scale productions down to almost touch them theater size, The Wiz might be a bit stifled in this small theater environs. The talent in this production is so super-sized it could easily hold court in Soldier Field.

 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

 

Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago.

Kokandy Productions THE WIZ
THE WIZ ensemble Photo: Michael Brosilow

When:

Now thru April 16, 2017

Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8 PM
Sundays at 3 PM

Added performances:

Saturday, April 1, 3 PM
Wednesday, April 5, 8 PM
Saturday ,April 8, 3 PM
Wednesday, April 12, 8 PM
Saturday, April 15, 3 PM

Where:

 

Theater Wit
1229 West Belmont
Chicago

Tickets:

$33+

Purchase at Kokandy Productions website or  call 73 975 8150 or in person at the Theater Wit Box Office.

 

**Also check out Theater Wit’s $29/month unlimited theater option and $225 10 performance Flexpass.

 

Photos: Michael Brosilow

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