Photo by Ken JacquesThe Motown version of The Wizard of Oz has landed at San Diego Junior Theatre where Director Michael Anthony brings his creative genius to bear on The Wiz. And it’s clear from the cellular phone warning, scrolling up on a screen like a Star Wars opening, that stage theatre is about to meet Sci-Fi. The show that follows is filled with a multitude of high-tech sounds, Tony Cucuzzella’s striking set, Cindy Kinnard's flashy and creative costumes, trippy lighting effects (Matt Novotny), rocket packs on the “winged monkeys,” and a yellow brick road made up of an ensemble that moves with robotic-like jerkiness.

The show is also filled with many spectacular voices that make it a pleasure to Ease on Down that robotic YBR. Emily Shackelford is Dorothy who leads the easing down the road which she hopes will lead to Home, though on the way she seems to be enjoying most of the residents and features of Oz. The residents include Robert Dowling as a funky Scarecrow complete with silver straw sticking out of his head. Dominic Robinson is the smooth singing and dancing Tinman who needs someone to Slide Some Oil to him. And Donny Gersonde is an especially amusing Mean Ole Lion dressed in a red fur coat who is in therapy with owls.

Then there are the more magically inclined residents of Oz. Addaperle is the sassy Good Witch of the North played by Rhea De Armas. Evillene is, obviously, the evil Witch of the West, and the intimidating Tiffany Laster is a hoot as she sings about how critical it is that she gets No Bad News, and how delightful it is to have her minions kiss her feet. Like the original book, Glinda is the Witch of the South, and in this role Hannah Sumner provides some absolutely jaw-dropping vocals. Trevor Johnson is the entertainingly pompous Wiz before his true identity is decurtained to reveal the wizard’s humbug, salesman-like alter ego Jackee Bianchi.

Other notable performances come from Thomas Mack as the animated Gatekeeper, Ashley Moore as the motherly Aunt Em, Tyler Knell as Evillene’s brown-nosing assistant, and Seth Biberstein as a timid messenger to Evillene who can’t believe the witch would kill him – especially considering this is “junior theatre.” The ensemble’s singing and dancing (futuristic choreography by Ericka Moore) enlivens so many scenes, but none more than the lively Everybody Rejoice led by Cailene Kilcoyne and joined by everybody who’s pleased by the departing of a certain wicked witch.

Performs through August 6, 2006.

Rob Hopper
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~
Photo by Ken JacquesDorothy: Emily Shackelford
Aunt Em/Kalidah Queen: Ashley Moore
Uncle Henry: Thomas Mack
Tornado Feature Dancer/Wizard: Jackee Bianchi
Addaperle: Rhea De Armas
Messenger: Seth Biberstein
Evillene: Tiffany Laster
Lord High Underling: Tyler Knell
Scarecrow: Robert Dowling
Tinman: Dominic Robinson
Lion: Donny Gersonde
Field Mouse 1: Jacob Sampson
Field Mouse 2: Cashae Overton
Royal Gatekeeper: Thomas Mack
Ms. Emerald City: Desiree Corriente
Wiz: Trevor Johnson
Wiz Guards: Teddy Fantano, Kiefer Shackelford
Winged Monkey Leader: Rachel Rogov
Soloists: Cailene Kilcoyne, Charles Evans, Jr.
Glinda: Hannah Sumner
Toto: Pinkie

Hannah Aarons-Bains
Sasha Altschuler
Julian Montijo
Cashae Overton
Jacob Sampson
Janelle Wen
Alicia Wong

Guyanna Bedington
Marc Amial Caro
Charles Evans, Jr.
Casey Jaquez
Cailene Kilcoyne
Meagan Rossin

Meryn Beckett
Teddy Fantano
Trevor Johnson
Kayla McCulley
Kiefer Shackelford

Hannah Aarons-Bains
Seth Biberstein
Marc Amial Caro
Casey Gardner
Josh Herren
Thomas Mack
Rachel Rogov

Meryn Beckett
Ariana Dickey
Kayla McCulley

Sasha Altschuler
Desiree Corriente
Olivia Puckett
Maddie White

Quadling Entourage:
Trevor Johnson
Tyler Knell
Cashae Overton
Janelle Wen
Allie Wong
Morgan Hazel

Pit Singers:
Heidi Clem
Kyle Cruz
Alejandra Jimenez
Shannon Partrick
Hannah Sumner
Charlotte Wen
Nate Woods

Director: Michael Anthony
Musical Director: Tim McKnight
Choreographer: Ericka Moore
Set Design: Tony Cucuzzella
Lighting Design: Matt Novotny
Costume Design: Cindy Kinnard
Sound Design: Robin Whitehouse
Stage Manager: Erin Petersen


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