The Harlem Rep’s “Wizard Of Oz”

Robert Massimi.

 

The Harlem Repertory Theater, whether it’s “Raisin In The Sun”, “In The Heights”, or anything else, this Repertory always delivers. “The Wizard Of Oz” played yesterday in Repertory with several of HRT’s other shows. With it’s economical stage and even smaller area for the musicians, the show was welcoming from the beginning and all the way through. The band entertained the early comers for 30 minutes before the show began. Director Keith Lee Grant did a spectacular job in the way the musical developed and the constant flow throughout that keep the audience riveted in this fine production.Maggie Allens projections,two to be exact made perfect use of a small stage. We saw through Allens work Dorothy’s house, the witches castle, Oz, the yellow brick road and the door to the Wizard. The second projection was used as a mood piece, stars, bright lights and a darker side to when the show was melancholy. Between the direction and these projections the show kept us alert and upbeat.

We all know the story, Myra Gulch (Emily Ramirez), owns half the town including Uncle Henry’s and Aunt Em’s. She wants Dorothy’s dog, Toto because he bit her. The dog escapes and runs back, Dorothy and Toto run away from home only to meet Professor Marvel (Daniel Fergus Tamulionis), who dupes her into going back home. The Tornado insues and Dorothy is stuck on the head and dreams about Oz. The story is abbreviated nicely because it was a show for children and one hour held there attention well. We go from the death of the Wicked Witch of the East to her sister, The Wicked Witch of the West trying to get the ruby slippers. We quickly meet the Scarecrow, The Tin Man and The Lion. The musical then takes us to Oz, to The Witches castle and back to Oz. It all begins and ends quickly so the audience had to be alert to catch this worldwind of a performance.

What makes “Oz” either good or bad is it’s music and the people singing the songs. This”Oz”has the good! Songs like:”Ding Dong”, “Lollipop Guild”,”Over The Rainbow”, “You King of the Forest”and the modern version of “Over The Rainbow” reprise. Grant not only did well directing, his choreography was also great. He used ballet dances to effect the tornado, he used several other dance types to project the feeling of the musical. Many of the scenes dancers were used in different dance genres to add to what seemed and felt like a circus atmosphere. Between the dancing, the singing, the projection and the lighting, the musical never stopped from the opening note to it’s last. Throw in some good acting and it’s one to remember for a long time.

Taylor-Rey Rivera was an excellent Dorothy. She sung and moved about with complete command of the stage. The Scarecrow(Derrick Montalve) and The Tin Man (Ben Harburg) were exceptional. Not only was(Daniel Fergus Tamulonis), great as Professor Marvel, he was equally good as Oz and fantastic in his ensemble roles. If that wasn’t enough, Tamulonis designed the costumes as well. His costume design was part of the”Circus”, part of the fun of seeing this performance.

What was most appealing to this show was the lighting. Brian Aldous made this show feel like a concert. His lights hit at times three distinct spots on and above the stage. At one point in the performance, Aldous hit the musicians, two parts of the stage and up above the stage into the balcony. Think thats easy? Think again. The lighting for this musical was as important as any other workings that “Oz” put forth. This was a show that was more like a band, one slip up and the whole thing falls apart. Fortunately, the whole thing went on with a nuance and a flawlessness about it. Once again The Harlem Rep kills it!

 

Author: nobullwithragingrobert

Was a drama critic at Manhattan College. Wrote professionally for Bergen News, Sun Bulletin . Alpha Sigma Lambda, Beta Theta. Has seen over 600 shows worldwide, has published both on Theater and Politics. Avid reader on many subjects and writers. Chief Drama critic for Metropolitan magazine. Writes for Jerrick media, American conservative, The City Journal and Reason magazine. Has produced shows both on and off Broadway.

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