The Wiz
Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo by J. Potter

Those of us old enough to remember the musical Hair and the Age of Aquarius, will also remember The Wiz, which appeared a few years later. Hair, a celebration of the Hippie era, was a subtle mix of fun songs and thought-provoking numbers questioning America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. The Wiz was the story of The Wizard of Oz turned into a black musical comedy. Both musicals were packed with songs that moved to the beat of the day and many of the songs went on to become hit singles.

Concord’s Willow’s Theatre presents an excellent production of The Wiz directed and choreographed by Stephen Semien. Many of you will remember Semien’s performance as James Thunder Early in Willow’s production of Dreamgirls. Semien brings the same energy to direction that he does to performance and he’s assembled an excellent cast that will keep you moving on down the road to this Oz experience.

One reason for the success of so many versions of The Wizard of Oz comes from the unique character of L. Frank Baum, the original writer of the classic fairytale. Writing at the turn of the 20th century, Baum had some early insights into women’s rights, freedoms and abilities. He has both good and bad witches in The Wizard of Oz, and, according to Baum expert Michael Patrick Hearn, the good witches are depicted as “vessels of knowledge. All the real power in Oz rests with women. The Wizard turns out to be a humbug. Dorothy is one of the first heroines in American children’s literature who… solves her own problems. She doesn’t sit around waiting for a prince to come.”

For tickets and information call (925) 798-1300 or visit www.willowstheatre.org.

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