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.
In the wonderful Land of Oz, everything is green. In the performance of “The Wiz” by Penn Hills, this was true in more than one way.
As I read through the directors’ notes in the program before the show, they talked all about the different recycled materials that were used to make the set designs. And as the curtains opened I was impressed by how they turned people’s old garbage into the beautiful set. Pop cans for flowers, old tin lids for the roof of Dorothy’s house, a pile of old fence and tires for the lion’s house, and plastic bottles at the corners of Evillene’s throne. Green was everywhere you looked, the color included and there was a lot to look at. It was overwhelming in the best way possible.
For those of you unfamiliar with the story, “The Wiz” is a modern retelling of “The Wizard of Oz.” Dorothy and her companions, the Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion, ease on down the road on their journey to the Emerald City. This avant-garde performance had people sitting up in their seats, laughing and foot-tapping to the beat of the music.
Penn Hills had some very strong lead actors and actresses. Savannah Wiggins, who played Dorothy, had people standing up and clapping during her finale song, “Home." Adam Rayan, as the Tinman, showed the crowd that you do not need a heart to be able to dance your heart out. Maurice Epps as the brainless Scarecrow gave great comic relief alongside Kush Flournoy as the cowardly Lion.
The whimsical dances and powerful music helped make this musical a lively show. The ensemble remained animated and created flashy dance numbers to back up the great leads. Whether it was Munchkins spinning on stools or slaves to Evillene scrubbing the floors, they brought energy to the stage that was definitely noticed and appreciated.
The costumes, props, and set really contributed a great deal. I was especially in awe when Glinda made her grand entrance with bubbles and a gown that lit up, making everyone excited as she walked through the aisles. I also liked the way they portrayed the yellow brick road. They had blocks that lit up, and they would hop from one to the other. The Wiz’ head was huge and had eyes that lit up, with no wires in sight.
Then with a few clicks of the heels, the show was over, leaving everyone with the thought that adventure is great, but there is no place like home.
Reviews are edited by senior theater critic Christopher Rawson. For more high school musicals coverage, go to http://www.post-gazette.com/ae/theater-dance/ and scroll down.