Duke Ellington School of the Arts The WizBy Cappies • Feb 11th, 2008 • Category: Cappies
Duke Ellington School of the Arts
The Ellington Theatre, Washington, DC
$20/$15 12 and under
Through February 15th
One fully expects a production by the famous Duke Ellington School of the Arts (DESA) to be incredible, and the collaborative effort put in to The Wiz does not disappoint. From the beautiful costumes and scenery to the high soaring voices of the talented cast, The Wiz is an incredible two and a half hour voyage down the yellow brick road to Oz, and a hysterical and thought-provoking spin on the beloved “Wizard of Oz” story, brought to life by the students of DESA.
There is no one character that outshines the others. The powerful voice of Ciarra Goode as Aunt Em starts the show off on a high note. The incredible singing continued throughout the night in the form of Addaperle (Nyame-Kye Kondo) and Glinda (Briona Jackson), as well as Antonio Tillman, George Ross and Demitrus Carter (the scarecrow, the tin man and the lion, respectively). Tillman’s Scarecrow was so much fun to watch; Tillman knows how to use his body to convey his feelings. Carter also plays his character, the lion, incredibly well. His stage presence and unique comedic timing create a loving aura that was balanced by the skillful detachment that Ross’ Tin-Man conveyed.
The most entertaining character by far, though, was Kondo’s Addaperle, the witch from the North. From Kondo’s distinct speech cadence to her charming attitude, she created a witch that was feisty, funny and caring. She played perfectly off of Imani Bowden (Dorothy), who played Dorothy with innocence and strength. Her voice was able to carry off the range necessary for the difficult part and she balanced the three men on stage with elegance and flair.
Also notable for a high school production was the dancing. From the promiscuous Poppy Girls to the “Twister” dancers, the choreography added to the already strong production, and the dancers seemed light on their feet and like they enjoyed what they were doing.
On the technical side, the orchestra was astounding. The music seemed to take over at times, but the cast distinguished themselves impressively. There were a few minor costume malfunctions but, again, a talented cast does not let such a thing get in its way. While often the actors slurred their words or spoke too quickly, they managed to use their bodies and physical attributes effectively to get the message across.
DESA’s production of The Wiz was outstanding, both in the magnitude of its talent and the fun the audience had while watching it. Everyone in the audience seems to understand the power of the school, the theater and that they are part of something bigger then themselves. The show, as Dramatruge Michelle Orr put it: “encourages us to reflect on our individual human journeys, our cultural and societal trek as a nation and how this story can be observed as a vehicle for collective identification.” A show that does all that and also makes us laugh is a rare treat, and DESA delivers.
by Amanda Litman of Robinson
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