Kelly Critic review: “The Wiz,” Pittsburgh Obama Academy

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The Kelly Critics is a joint program of the Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh CLO's Gene Kelly Awards for Excellence in High School Musicals, in which students at Kelly schools review musicals at other Kelly schools.

The classic story that we’re all familiar with, “The Wizard of Oz” has had a makeover, with the addition of catchy songs, a few new characters, and a lot of comedy. Despite all the differences, “The Wiz” stays true to its inner meaning.

Director Ms. McKrell describes the show as “ a story, and a production, about finding the confidence you always had inside, about believing in your innate qualities and then collaborating with others to reach your destination.” Her words explain the genuine meaning that can often be overlooked, but Obama Academy made this message so evident that it would have been impossible to disregard.

One of the unique features of the show was the personification used to depict key objects such as the yellow brick road and the tornado.

Wearing black and grey with lights attached to their costumes, the ensemble danced through the fog, representing the tornado that transports Dorothy from her hometown in Kansas to the world of Oz. The dance engrossed the audience with interest about what would happen next. It was especially distinctive how some of the dancers moved props off stage, while others still danced around them, making the scene visually interesting.

In addition to the tornado, the yellow brick road, played by the duo of Aziaha Robinson and Taiquel Whatley, captivated the audience with their constant stamina throughout. Covered in three-dimensional yellow squares, the pair was prominent on stage not only from their costumes, but also for their long periods of stage time. They engaged the audience throughout the show, in addition to the basic challenge of playing a road.

Marnie Quick, who played the heartless, tap dancing Tinman, looked pretend in her first moments on stage, completely frozen in position, but the moment she started singing “Slide Some Oil to Me,” there was no denying her real presence with the strongest voice of the night.

The high point was the vocal abilities of all. Every lead character who sang blew me away with the strength of their voice and the ease with which they sang, even while dancing fast paced numbers, and, in the Scarecrow’s case, singing perfectly while lying flat on her back, held in the air by members of the ensemble.

While the performers’ vocal strengths highlighted the show, the drawback was the lack of enunciation in dialogue. At some points, I struggled to follow what the actors were saying because of excessively fast speech, mumbled lines, and lack of projection.

The one thing that never went away was the spirit and commitment to what they were performing: the cast epitomized the heart of the show, which made it very worthwhile to see.

Reviews are edited by senior theater critic Christopher Rawson. For more high school musicals coverage, go to and scroll down.

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