PHOTO CALL: The Wonderful Wiz of La Jolla

News   PHOTO CALL: The Wonderful Wiz of La Jolla
La Jolla Playhouse's new staging of the Oz-based musical The Wiz, starring David Alan Grier in the title role, opens Oct. 8 at the hands of director Des McAnuff.

The "re-imagining" of the musical — with Charlie Smalls' score and William F. Brown's book — began preview Sept. 26 in the Mandell Weiss Theatre for a run through Nov. 12.

David Alan Grier stars as The Wiz in the musical based on L. Frank Baum's "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" opposite Nikki M. James as Dorothy, Titus Burgess as the Lion, Rashad Naylor as the Scarecrow, Michael Benjamin Washington as the Tin Man, E. Faye Butler as the wicked witch Evillene, Orville Mendoza as Uncle Henry, Valarie Pettiford as Glinda and Aunt Em and Heather Lee as Addaperle.

The ensemble includes Charl Brown, Courtney Corey, Mark Emerson, Dionne D. Figgins, Demond Green, Albert Guerzon, Dominique Kelley, Ron Kellum, Alan Mingo, Anisha Nagarajan, NRaca, Karine Plantadit, Terra-Lee Pollin, Keiana Richard, Liz Ramos and Marcos Santana.

"Our production will reflect the shifts that have occurred in the dominant pop culture, in both music and theatre, since The Wiz's history-making Broadway debut in the 1970s," explained McAnuff about the new take. "This is modern Oz, with a modern look and modern sounds."

McAnuff will work with Harold Wheeler, who orchestrated the original Broadway production of The Wiz, on giving this version a more contemporary sound. An environmental set by Robert Brill will also be part of the show's new concept, which includes a dancer (Albert Blaise) rather than a dog in the role of Dorothy's beloved Toto. At Left (From Top): The Wiz (David Alan Grier) dazzles Emerald City.

Her Majesty of Mustiness Evillene (E. Faye Butler) tries to coax the silver slippers away from Dorothy (Nikki M. James).

Scarecrow (Rashad Naylor) wants to join Dorothy’s journey;

Tinman (Michael Benjamin Washington) tells his tale of woe to Dorothy.

Lion (Tituss Burgess) is enchanted by the poppy field on his approach into Emerald City.

Below: Dorothy (Nikki M. James) puts a house down on the Wicked Witch of the East as the Munchkins look on.

Lion (Tituss Burgess), Dorothy (Nikki M. James), Scarecrow (Rashad Naylor) and Tinman (Michael Benjamin Washington) "Ease on Down the Road."

photos by Kevin Berne

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