Theater Review: ‘The Wiz’ Eases Its Way to San Diego

The Wiz, the 7-time Tony Award winning musical which just landed in San Diego is fun, fresh and sure to put a smile on your face.

Kyle Ramar Freeman as Lion, Nichelle Lewis as Dorothy, Phillip Johnson Richardson as Tinman, Avery Wilson as Scarecrow. Photo by Jeremy Daniel

The Wiz, the 7-time Tony Award winning musical, has just landed in San Diego as it eases on down the road to Broadway, where it opens at the Marriott Marquis Theatre on March 29th. The show is fun and, with an updated book by Amber Ruffin, fresh and it’s sure to put a smile on your face.

The story is based on The Wizard of Oz, where a young Dorothy (Nichelle Lewis) is whisked away into the Land of Oz where she befriends the Scarecrow (Avery Wilson), Tin Man (Phillip Johnson Richardson) and Cowardly Lion (Kyle Ramar Freeman). As they make their way to the Emerald City to find The Wizard, or The Wiz (Alan Mingo Jr.), they meet witches friendly – Glinda (Deborah Cox) – and unfriendly – Evillene (Melody Betts).

Lewis, Wilson, Richardson, and Freeman work incredibly well opposite each other. Director Schele Williams gives each actor their time to shine (and shine, and shine and shine) and when Cox, Mingo and Betts get added to the mix, it elevates it to another level.

Ruffin, who co-wrote the wonderful Some Like It Hot that just closed on Broadway, contributed some timely – and hilarious – updates to the original book by William F. Brown. With her new jokes sprinkled throughout and the cast’s spot-on comedic timing, there’s no doubt you’ll be laughing from start to finish.

I do wish they had updated some of the music though. ‘Ease on Down the Road’, ‘Brand New Day’ and ‘Home’ (where Lewis knocked out of the park), are exceptional, but the rest of the songs didn’t do anything for me. The actors sell it though, there’s no doubt.

The set (mostly projections) by Daniel Brodie and costume design by Emmy Award®-winning and two-time Academy Award®-nominated Sharen Davis are eye-popping and gorgeous. The projections are almost 3D-like and place you into Oz with colors and depth while the costumes are full of some of the deepest at brightest colors I’ve ever seen on stage.

THE WIZ is currently playing at the San Diego Civic Theatre. For more info and tickets: Broadway San Diego

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