The award-winning hit Broadway Musical, THE WIZ is, coming to Wilson, just in time to kick-off the 2017 holiday season.
On Saturday, October, 28th at 7 p.m. in the auditorium of Hunt High School, 4559 Lamm Rd., Wilson, NC, Vision Community Theatre Group, Inc. will present the joyous and uplifting musical, The Wiz, the African-American reimagining of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900).
New York’s Broadway welcomed The Wiz to the Majestic Theatre on January 5th, 1975. The musical starred singer/actress Stephanie Mills, Ted Ross and Mabel King. In 1978 Motown produced a big screen adaptation of The Wiz with a more urban twist which starred Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell and Diana Ross. In December 2015, A live television production, The Wiz Live! Was produced by NBC which starred newcomer Shanice Williams as Dorothy & Stephanie Mills as Aunt Em. All three adaptations of the book, -coming in contact with little people dressed strangely, flying monkeys, talking crows, witches and an innocent girl who gets twirled away from her family and wants nothing more than to go back home stays true to the premise of the original, Wonderful Wizard of Oz, starring Judy Garland, but with more urban twists, lively music and dance.
Toshika Johnson Smith, co-founder of Vision Community Theatre Group, Inc. is the director for the upcoming performance.
“We chose this particular show to help celebrate our 10th anniversary. This is the biggest production we have ever done and I am so excited about the caliber of talent we have in this show”. Smith said.
Vision Community Theatre Group, Inc. is the 1st incorporated African American owned theatre company in Wilson and the second in the state of North Carolina. The production has a cast and crew of more than 40 people that includes newcomers to the company as well as seasoned Visionaries. Some are acting, some are lending their voices as pit singers and some are working behind the scenes
The cast includes Briah Pack- Dorothy, Rosalyn Edwards – The Scarecrow, Eddie Charles Atkins – The Tin Man, Zavian Watford – The Lion, Derek Carter – the Wiz, Cassandra Whitehead – Evillene, Atoya Beckles – Addaperle, Renna Mayes – Glinda, Shelley Chance Brown – Aunt Em & Music Director, Milton Herring- Uncle Henry & Baby Girl – Toto. Munchkins are Rayshawn Davis, Layla Guzman, Tahleah Bryant, Precious Pearce, Teleasha Edwards, – Lead
Choreographer, & dancer. Other supporting cast members include, Sarah Mahone, Katlynn Redmond, Tkia McGhee, Blanca Perez, Cerenity Pender, Gerrod Warren, Joel Jordan, Joshua Jordan, Kaitlynn Redmond, Kayla Deans, Makayla Hamlett, Monique Jordan, Trinity Pitt, Uriyjah Chance, Sarah Barrow, John Wesley Edwards, Adrienne Gaskins, Jaiiyah Applewhite, Ja’Nyla Hinnant, and Ja’Sir Knight. Pit singers include, Atoya Beckles, Shelley Chance Brown, Derek Carter, Esther Martin Cobb, .Milton Herring, Renna Mayes, Alisha Strayhorn, Monique Jordan-Pearce, Cassandra Whitehead, Terrance Verner.
For the last couple of months, the cast has been learning lines, memorizing music and keeping up with choreography, in order to orchestrate a phenomenal show. Another major factor to enhance the wizardry or outer-worldliness of the show is the costuming, for which Vision co-founder Johnnie “Jahni” Evans will work her wonders on wardrobe with the help of costume designs by Derek Carter. Evans has transformed her home into a sewing factory, combining the various creations for the casts’ costumes.
Fortunate for the founding Vision duo in that their talents are broad, with Smith being a former Social Services Division Manager as well as a Realtor, (now retired), and Evans currently an elementary school counselor. Talent seems to beget talent when it comes to Vision productions. Many of the cast members have taken on multiple responsibilities, and all to ensure that the audience has an enjoyable experience. For instance, longtime Visionary Derek Carter loves to sing; and people from all over love to hear him sing. Yet Carter’s talents are not restricted to singing on Hunt’s stage next weekend. Just to see how far his talents fly, you’ll just have to see The Wiz like everyone else. We’re sure you’ll be pleased, delighted and will sing along.
“When reflecting on my years of experience with Vision Community Theatre Group, two words come to mind: Pride and Enthusiasm,” Carter said recently. He added that it has been rewarding to participate in African-American theater opportunities.
“Discovering so much local talent has really been remarkable. Not only has it opened doors for many who participated, but also the local patrons of the arts who have been waiting to see thespians they can relate to,” Carter said.
Wilson native Eddie Atkins is a favorite all by himself. Although quick to deflect praise, his voice warrants it. Atkins is one of the attractions of Vision performances. “Well, the productions have always been well performed and well received by the community and the cast,” Atkins said. “This particular show is challenging but high energy. I am sure that the younger members of the cast will continue to perform in future shows produced by Vision Community Theatre Group.”
Are you wondering why Atkins said the performance is high energy? Just think of the song “Ease on down the Road!” It’s a long path, with various twists and turns until the main characters get a “Brand New Day!”
With singing comes dancing, and Smith was pleasantly surprised when during the multiple auditions while parents were bringing their children, Smith witnessed how the apples didn’t fall far from the branches. In one case, Rosalyn Edwards, the young lady cast as Scarecrow, had her mom behind her all the way. After observing Rosalyn’s choreography audition, Smith was highly impressed and learned Rosalyn’s mother had helped her with her dance routine. Smith then asked Rosalyn’s mother, Teleasha Woodard Edwards, if she’d sign on as the choreographer. On a different day, after having a conversation with the mother of another little girl, Uriyjah Chance, Smith asked the mother if she would audition also. The youngster’s mom auditioned for the role of Aunt Em. That beautifully strong and broad-voiced woman, Shelley Chance Brown, not only was cast as Dorothy’s aunt but after hearing Brown sing and learning about her educational background in music and her professional experience as a singer, Smith also asked her to serve as Music Director.
This is a show you do not want to miss! So ease on down the road and get your tickets today. All tickets are $20.00 per person and can be purchased at the Wilson Arts Council, 124 Nash St, Wilson NC. Ward’s Steak & Cheese, 6228 Ward Blvd, Wilson NC, Eventbrite.com, from any cast member or at the box office on the day of the show. For more information call 252-220-0797.