Thirty middle schoolers found themselves following the yellow brick road to Oz as they performed The Wiz.
Directed by Robb Dimmick and sponsored by the 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant, the play showcased the talent of budding thespians, singers, and dancers as well as sound and stage crew members.
Loosely following the story line of the children’s classic The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy (played by 6th grader Beyanca Guilme) finds herself surrounded by Tinman, Lion, and Scarecrow all seeking that which they believe only the Wiz can bestow on them.
Beyanca, finding herself unexpectedly cast as Dorothy, found the role “endearing.” “It was inspiring, being in her shoes,” she remarked. “She was sweet and so faithful to carry on her journey to Oz.”
Director, Robb Dimmick embraced the performance as a growth opportunity for the student-performers. “When Dorothy gets ready to take leave of her three newfound friends, and the full company joins her in singing the stirring “Home,” the audience knows an extraordinary transformation has occurred in the lives of these young performers. And just like Dorothy, we know they will never be the same again.”
The Wiz was performed at the Providence Career and Technical Academy in December to a full house of Cuffee families, teachers, and supporters.
View Program | View pictures and “Notes from the Director” below
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Notes from the Director of “The Wiz”:
As director of Paul Cuffee Middle School’s triumphant staging of The Wiz, I am honored to have this space to say a few words. I have offered a version of The Wiz that goes to the core of the story, which is about discovering that home is within our hearts, just three clicks away at all times.
Helping these brilliant and talented students discover not only the power of the story, but their own unique power as change-agents on the stage of life was a privilege and pleasure. Some of the highlights unique to the Cuffee performance were the double and, in one instance, triple casting, such as the three dynamos, Zoe, Marque and Katrina, who were joined at the hips as Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West, showcasing extraordinary ferocity of the character; The Wiz portrayed in tandem by Devvin and Jose, delivering a soaring rendition of “So You Wanted to Meet the Wizard” and Roma and Corrine as whacky but ultimately beneficent Glindas, one from England and the other from the Deep South.
Part of the joy of this process was seeing the actors take license with the material to make it their own. Gender-blind casting meant we could have females assume the traditionally male roles of Scarecrow (Qwin) and Lion (Francheska), transforming the latter from King of the Jungle to Queen of the Jungle. Darius as Tinman endeared himself to us as all-heart, and Beyanca as Dorothy revealed a singing voice that can only be called divine.
For the first time, we had a student technical team, (Luke, Gianna, Millie, Abigail and Marlaina) so efficient you’d think they were Equity, and a crew of prop and set designers headed by Mrs. Weigand and her art students.
With a musical director impossible to find, I opted to use studio tracks, which initially presented the young vocalists with the challenge of singing to a set, immovable instrumentation. Bringing in Becky Bass as vocal coach solved the issue and, in the end, the recordings provided a rich, fully-orchestrated Broadway sound.
Aisha choreographed the group numbers and Ms. Osborne guest starred as Addaperle, serving as an excellent role model for the young performers. Ms. Edwards fleshed out the characters with her exquisite costuming.
Completing the cast in admirable fashion as Gatekeeper (Jachai), Lord High Underling (Aliyah), Aunt Em (Cassidy), Uncle Henry (Raymond), and as Crows, Poppies, Munchkins, Ozians, and Winkies: Oluwabunmi, Daisha, Ma’Kayla, Deeanys, Katy, Tiffany, Rania, and Adrian, the 24 member ensemble achieved my intention of this beautiful show, which was to share the zaniness of L. Frank Baum’s original Wizard of Oz story within the boundaries of believability and sincerity.
When Dorothy gets ready to take leave of her three newfound friends, and the full company joins her in singing the stirring Home, the audience knows an extraordinary transformation has occurred in the lives of these young performers. And just like Dorothy, we know they will never be the same again.