Before the Robinson Player’s beloved Short Term tradition of “Stages for All Ages” hit Schaeffer Stage in mid-May, I got to sit down with director, Liza Danello ‘14, a Theater and English double major, to get some inside information on what to expect from this outrageous soulful musical, The Wiz.
The Bates Student: How does the performance for Batesies differ from the one put on for young children?
Liza Danello: The performance for Bates is sort of an opportunity to open the pandora’s box of “adult themes” that are latent in the script and throughout the rehearsal. We keep the structure and all of the main aspects of the show the same but then everything else is subject to change. The actual performance ends up being a lot of improvisation and the actors are given some free license to add or change what they want about their parts. The whole evening is raucous fun for actors and audience alike and its different every year. We never know quite what to expect but it’s sure to be memorable!
TBS: Are there lots of themes or issues you’ll be addressing in “The Wiz” that “The Wizard of Oz” never touched on?
LD: A lot of The Wiz is just a modernization of The Wizard of Oz. It certainly recognizes the classic that it reinterprets and a lot of time the dialogue will poke fun of the sometimes-ridiculous moments that crop up. All the familiar characters are back from The Wizard of Oz – Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tinman, the Lion, the Witches, the Flying Monkeys – but most of them have a fresh quirk that differentiates them from the original Wizard of Oz. For example, Addaperle, the good witch from Munchkinland, is a bit of a washed-up showgirl who’s lost some of her knack for magic. I think that many of the characters share this shade of imperfection that we see in Addaperle. All of the characters have moments of insecurity or inadequacy.
TBS: What’s the allure of staging something “Wizard”-esque in the 21st century?
LD: The Wizard of Oz or The Wiz are great shows because they incorporate so many diverse characters and situations into an imaginative world onstage. These magical worlds lend themselves to theater specifically because we are able to do so many extraordinary things onstage. There is something about the theater space that makes even the simplest moments really special. I think that the world of The Wiz is one that keeps the audience engaged because it keeps transforming.
TBS: Where and how is the play set in relation to the original “Wizard of Oz”?
LD: Like The Wizard of Oz, the play has a shift from the flat world of Kansas into the strange, vibrant world of Oz. But the places we see in Oz in The Wiz are a lot funkier than those from The Wizard of Oz. We are going to play up the dynamism of this world with flashy colors and big structural set pieces to make Oz seem like a land far, far away.
TBS: If you could choose the one biggest difference between “The Wiz” and “The Wizard of Oz”, what would it be?
LD: The biggest difference is probably the style of music that they use. The Wizard of Oz has all the sweet classics like “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” but The Wiz is a much more lively show. The singing and dancing makes you want to get up and groove along with the performers. The music is jivy and gives the show a 70s funk feel. The sound is very bright and fun to listen to and I think that this upbeat blend of music will be very appealing for the young audience.
TBS: Will there be unexpected turns those familiar with “The Wizard of Oz” won’t see coming?
LD: Well I don’t want to give too much away! There will definitely be several moments that may surprise an audience, whether or not they are familiar with The Wizard of Oz. Our Technical Director, Dan Paseltiner, has some thrilling ideas for our set that will have a forceful visual impact. The tornado is one moment that will be very different from The Wizard of Oz. Its actually a dance, the “Tornado Ballet,” and will feature some of the dancers that we have working on the project as well as some dramatic set movement and lighting. Just because we can’t build a tornado like Hollywood may doesn’t mean that we can’t build something amazing.
TBS: What would you call the biggest selling point of “The Wiz”?
LD: The biggest selling point of our Wiz is the incredible cast and crew that we have collaborating on this project. The Short Term musical is an exciting project because we have Batesies involved who wouldn’t normally have the free time during the school year. Our cast and crew is a consolidation of many of the exceptionally talented people at Bates who bring their energy, enthusiasm, and passion to the show. It’s wonderful to see all these faces of Bates come together on a project of this scale and build something astonishing in only about three weeks.
So mark your calendars and be sure to see The Wiz within the coming weeks. Please check out the Short Term Arts Schedule for more information. This is a production you do not want to miss!