Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Review: CYT Atlanta's "The Wiz"

The Christian Youth Theater (CYT) of Atlanta staged a rollicking production of “The Wiz.” The success of the show can be attributed to the talented, close-knit cast, delightfully garish 70’s era costumes and makeup, and the seasoned CYT staff and artistic team.

Graduating senior and CYT veteran Jacob Valleroy was wonderful as the Wiz, standing tall in green and white polyester jumpsuits, battery-powered belt buckle, authentic 70’s heels, and even taller wig. Bama bound to study theater, Jacob sings strongly in “So You Wanted to Meet the Wizard” and Believe in Yourself”, then channels the late 70’s Steve Martin in the more humorous “Y’all Got It” number.

Scarecrow Austin Hunter delivers a physical performance reminiscing of Ray Bolger in the original Wizard of Oz, flailing about on unsure arms and legs. Though cowardly, Cody Marshall brings a demure king of the jungle royalty to his Lion character, particularly while singing “Mean ol Lion.” Alex Thomas contributed an appropriately stiff performance as the Tin Man, at least until his “Slide Some Oil to Me” number loosened him up a bit. His “tin” costume was partially manufactured from recycled Coke and Fanta cans, and bejeweled with bottle caps.

Mackenzie Lintz cleverly developed her good witch Addaperle’s character with quirky mannerisms befitting the part. Sporting grapefruit-sized Princess Leia hair buns and a flowing paisley robe, Lintz played well off the mass of grade-school munchkins sharing her stage. Young munchkin Abby Grace Freet delivered her memorable “wear white to the funeral” wise-crack with class and dignity.

Fellow good witch Glinda / Natalie Portman look-alike Alex Crump wound down the show with strong back-to-back vocals on “A Rested Body is a Rested Mind” and the “Believe in Yourself” reprise…while elaborately made-up in an almost mermaid-like dress and pink wig. As Evillene, Wicked Witch of the West Sarah Grace Valleroy devilishly prances and sings “No Bad News” with a wicked grin. Her red cape and boots (and multi-colored wig) helped her stand out.

Young Olivia Yokubonis plays a most personable Dorothy, smiling broadly while befriending every fellow character helping her along the way. Her heartwarming performance of “Home” ends the show on an appropriate note. Though the same age, the versatile Rachel Canouse played a much older Aunt Em with many motherly mannerisms (makeup matters!).

Hannah, Chloe, and the two Emilys, the four young ladies pointing the way as the Yellow Brick Road, were quite fun and entertaining: dancing about the stage while adding additional vocals, displaying extreme fright as the Lion leaped, and quirkily looking about in the background while Dorothy and friends pondered their next move.

Typically ingenious were the Yellow Brick Road costumes: black tights painted with large gold bricks. Most of the songs included wonderfully choreographed dancing, from the house-hurling Tornado Ballet, singing and dancing Crows, Trash Can Tappers, black-wigged Emerald City Ballet, and happy-to-be-free Winkies.

The little Winged Monkeys also deserve special mention, tumbling high across the stage like the real thing, then hurling themselves off the stage into the audience to capture Dorothy and friends.

The large, young cast found excellent leadership and direction from CYT Atlanta’s Pat Valleroy, Connie Matthews, Hillary Coons, Michelle Evans, Anna Kilbride, Sharon Druzbanski, and Anne Thomas. With less than a week to set up and rehearse in the Milton Center Theater, the actors’ hard work paid off with improvement and excellence from the first rehearsal to the final closing curtain.

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