Ease on Down the Road; A Review of CSUS’s “The Wiz”

As we ease on down the road of life, the little things are what keep us going. Spending time with family, enjoying great entertainment and having a few laughs are great ways to have such an experience.

From April 8 through April 24, California State University, Sacramento’s Department of Theatre and Dance presented William F. Brown’s “The Wiz” for the entire Sacramento community to enjoy. The play was directed by Melinda Wilson Ramey and choreographed by Linda S. Goodrich and featured the original songs by Charlie Smalls. “The Wiz” is of course the 1978 movie rendition of L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” and Sac State’s students pulled off the show in a very impressive way.

Perhaps the best part of the show was Timothy Stewart’s portrayal of “The Wiz” himself which was full of comedy and slapstick and really got the audience involved. As he wore the oversized head in the awesome costume and used the fake hands to point in which direction he wanted his chair moved, he eventually got frustrated and stood up to just move around on his own–a moment that got a huge laugh from the audience. Stewart also joked with Dorothy about why she world ever want to leave Emerald City to go back to Sacramento.

Then there was the beautiful rendition of “To Be Able To Feel” performed by Ryan Thomas Blanning, who played the Tinman. And Ashli Fisher, who did an amazing job playing Dorothy belted out a beautiful version of “Be A Lion.”

The Lion and Scarecrow played by Sean Patrick Nill and Michael Blair Smith respectively were also great roles. Their comedic relief was a very popular aspect of the show. The rest of the cast did a tremendous job as well and overall the play was very well-done.

The play also featured several guest appearances from all over the Sacramento community. The Mayor of West Sacramento, Christopher Cabaldon, Good Day Sacramento reporter, Courtney Dempsey and Alexander Gonzalez, president of Sac State were among the list of 12 special guest stars who each played the role of an Emerald City citizen.

As with any performance though, it was not without its flaws. The audio wasn’t the greatest and it was hard to hear the lyrics of songs at times. Some of the quickly-spoken lines in the play were missed as well because of poor delivery. Sac State’s theatre is quite small and it felt cramped sitting in the seats for about two and a half hours with only a short fifteen minute intermission. Urias Davis’s portrayal of Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West was comedic and fun but a bit over the top. There also tended to be a little too much going on up on the stage at times.

Overall the play was wonderful though and the crowd involvement as the actors and actresses ran up and down the aisles made the audience feel as if they were a part of the story. This play was definitely worth the money and the hard work, effort, and level of dedication that went into this production were obvious.

“This production of the Wiz is several years in the making,” director, Ramey says in the program for the play. “Thank you for easing on down the road with us to Oz!”

And it was several years well spent as this was a wonderful presentation of “The Wiz.” If you ever have the chance to see a college production of the play in the future, do not hesitate to do so because it truly is a fun experience.
 

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