From the story “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum
At The Lyric Stage May 18 through June 24
May 18 – June 24, 2018
Directed by Dawn M. Simmons, with musical direction by Allyssa Jones and choreography by Jean Appolon this is a soulful retelling of L. Frank Baum’s beloved The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.The Wiz combines fairy-tale glamour with street smarts to make a classic fantasy sparkle for today. The Lyric Stage directors and choreographer will bring a blast of New Orleans Creole magic to this production. Winner of seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Score, The Wiz ingeniously mixes rock, gospel, soul, and jazz, and features hits like “Ease on Down the Road,” “A Brand New Day,” and “Home.”
The cast for The Wiz:
Soneka Anderson, Elle Borders*, Brandon G. Green*, Steven Martin, Davron S. Monroe*, Yewande O. Odetoyinbo*, Juanita Pearl, Pier Lamia Porter, Carolyn Saxon*, Damon Singletary, Salome Smith, Lance-Patrick Strickland.
Gypsy at the Lyric Stage, Boston Through October 8th
Reviewed by Bobby Franklin
Lyric Stage Artistic Director Spiro Veloudos has found his Gypsy. In Leigh Barrett he has found an actor who can step into the iconic role of Mama Rose. Ms Barrett makes this her Rose and we get to see one who fully embraces the part with a powerful performance. From her first number, Some People, you know she is going to be very special. It has to be a daunting role to step into, but she’s got what it takes.
He has found his Louise in the amazingly talented Kirsten Salpini who gives a perfectly measured Louise who goes from being the unsteady second fiddle to her sister and grows in confidence and the ability to stand up to her domineering, and it can be argued, abusive mother. With Ms Salpini we see that transformation occur seamlessly. It is not an easy part to play.
He has found his June in Kira Troilo who gives us the fair haired daughter who finally realizes she has to flee the smothering grip of her mother. She is the child who realizes that in order to become a woman she has to walk away from it all. At first her character seems very superficial, but Ms Troilo gives her a sensitivity and a humanity that allows us to respect June and leaves us knowing she will make a good life for herself.
And then there is Herbie. Spiro has found a marvelous Herbie for us in the ever so talented Steven Barkhimer. Mr. Barkhimer gives a character who could be taken for weak but has us see it is not weakness but kindness that inhabits this very decent man who has taken up with a very difficult woman. Having seen Mr. Barkhimer before I was not at all surprised to see how truly wonderful he is in this role, and it is such a pleasure seeing him practice his craft.
If you miss this production you are making a huge mistake.
Spiro has found all of this talent and more including the young June and Louise played by Margot Anderson-Song and Cate Galante who, accompanied by fabulous ensemble contribute so much to the very strong first act. They are very impressive.
And finally, he has found Director and Choreographer Rachel Bertone who pulls it all together for an amazing Gypsy. Ms Bertone gets it all just right in this scaled down but amazing production of what has been called the greatest of all Broadway musicals.
The six piece orchestra led by Dan Rodriguez coupled with a simple but poignant set make this a first rate work capable of rivaling any huge stage production. I would go as far as to say it is better. Seeing this in the intimacy of the Lyric Stage Theatre brings us close not only physically but emotionally to the story. A story that has been described as Lear-like and while filled with some of the greatest numbers in the history of Broadway musicals, it can be searing and painful to watch.
The score is timeless and simply great with music by Jule Style and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The songs are unforgettable, and it is all pulled together in the book by Arthur Laurents. Numbers such as Let Me Entertain You, Some People, Small World, If Mama Was Married, Everything Coming Up Roses, You Gotta Get A Gimmick, and my favorite Little Lamb, that Kirsten Salpini does with such tenderness speak for themselves. This is the stuff of legend.
Okay, so now I have to add something, and I know I am in a very tiny minority when I say this. I have seen productions of Gypsy before, and I have always enjoyed Act I. It is Act II that would leave me flat, or rather with the feeling the story is left unresolved and with an unnecessary cruelty. I feel the dysfunction of Mama Rose has been taken too far. In truth, I was not looking forward to seeing it again, Act II that is. This time was the exception as Director Bertone brings it all together thoughtfully at the conclusion. Yes, Rose is still flawed but something special happens. It may not be a Kodak Family moment, but it is real and it works.
As I said at the beginning of my review, Spiro has found a great Gypsy, with Barrett, Salpini, Troilo, Barkhimer, and company lighting up the Lyric Stage. If you miss this production you are making a huge mistake.
Spiro Veloudos has kicked off his 20th year at the Lyric Stage in great fashion. He has found something very special and is sharing it with all of us. Accept this gift from this wonderful man. He knows how to Light the Lights!
The Lyric Stage, Boston through October 8th