D Kevin McNeirLifestyle

Ease on Down the Road with ‘The Wiz’

Flying monkeys, a trio of misfits longing for courage, heart and brains, an evil witch, a mysterious man known as The Wiz and of course Dorothy, a young girl searching for the true meaning of family, return for a journey through the land of Oz in the Tony Award-winning musical “The Wiz,” opening March 9 at the historic Ford’s Theatre in Northwest.

The revised production, directed by Kent Gash and choreographed by Dell Howlett, features Ines Nassara (Dorothy), Hasani Allen (Scarecrow), Kevin McAllister (Tinman), Christopher Michael Richardson (Lion) and Jobari Parker-Namdar as The Wiz. The musical, recommended for those 8 and older, runs through May 12.

But while Dorothy and her newfound comrades follow the yellow-brick road in a quest to fulfill their individual, long-desired dreams, a power-hungry witch named Evillene stands in their way, promising to destroy them all.

“The Wiz” took home seven Tony Awards in 1975 with its Broadway debut including Best Musical and Best Original Score in a rousing celebration of Black culture that featured the sounds of gospel, soul, R&B and pop and colorful attire reminiscent of both African and Creole communities as well as 1970s-inspired costumes and set designs.

“The beauty of ‘The Wiz’ is its message that anything we already are is enough,” Gant explained. “Dorothy feels restless and stuck at home but when the tornado comes through it absolutely turns her world upside down and changes her perspective.”

“Dorothy discovers she’s smarter, more powerful and more interesting than she ever realized. She comes to understand that how she moves through the world can change lives. That is a valuable lesson for us all to celebrate,” he added.

Gash notes that the play broke ground as the first Broadway musical that did not present Blacks as suffering, enslaved, in abject poverty or under duress. Instead, it celebrated the love within the African-American family and the strong bonds that exist within the human community.

“The musical was created in ways that celebrate the vernacular of black speech, rhythms, music and expression, the particularity of the black experience and the authority of the cultural voice in all its specificity, which transcends to become universal,” he said.

Special performances and events for “The Wiz” include those audio-described on March 27 and May 12; sign-interpreted on April 5 and captioned on April 21. A free meet and mingle will follow the April 28 performance that will bring the audience and cast together at the Asia Nine restaurant, located just a few steps from Ford’s Theatre.

One of the most visited sites in the nation’s capital, Ford’s Theatre reopened its doors in 1968, more than 100 years after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Operated through a partnership between Ford’s Theatre Society and the National Park Service, it stands as the premier destination in the District to explore and celebrate Lincoln’s ideals and leadership principle of courage, integrity, tolerance, equality and creative expression. Ford’s Theatre, honored in 2008 with the National Medal of Arts, continues to make its mark on the American theatrical landscape.

For more information and tickets, go to www.fords.org.

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D. Kevin McNeir – Washington Informer Editor

Kevin, an award-winning veteran journalist, book editor and educator, is the editor for The Washington Informer where he displays a keen insight for political news, editorial development and lifestyle features. A staunch Wolverine, the Detroit native left a promising career at IBM to pursue his passion for writing under the tutelage of the late Sam Logan, founding publisher of the Michigan Chronicle. His journey has continued to press rooms in Grand Rapids, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami and currently Washington, D.C. With two master's degrees from Emory University and Princeton Theological Seminary, he finds great joy in his children and grandchildren and is completing his first book, "Growing up Motown" which chronicles his childhood memories with legends like Marvin Gaye, Kim Weston, the Four Tops, the Miracles, Gladys Knight, Berry Gordy and the Jackson Five.

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