Follow the Yellow Brick Road to Eagle Rock’s Take on ‘The Wiz’

Eagle Rock School students and faculty members are busy rehearsing for a series of performances of the Tony Award-winning 1975 musical, “The Wiz,” which are scheduled in Estes Park at month’s end.

The Wiz Eagle Rock SchoolOur production of “The Wiz” (March 31-April 2, 2016) is an urban retelling of L. Frank Baum’s 1900 tale, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” using Motown, Funk and Soul music to rework the story into the context of modern African-American culture. A film adaption of the show was released in 1978, starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson.

Eleven talented Eagle Rock students and four staff members will perform in our staged version, backed by a live four-piece professional pit band. Meghan Tokunaga-Scanlon, Eagle Rock School’s Music Instructional Specialist, directs the show, with co-direction by World Languages Instructional Specialist Brighid Scanlon and musical direction by 2015/2016 Public Allies Teaching Fellow Michael Grant.

Performances will be staged beginning at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 31 as well as Friday and Saturday, April 1 and 2 at the Hempel Auditorium within the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park. Admission at the door is “pay what you like” and all proceeds benefit the Eagle Rock Graduate Higher Education Fund.

But we digress. The story of Dorothy and her road trip to Oz has become known worldwide for its themes of home, belonging, belief in oneself and freedom. “The Wiz,” with its original premiere in 1975 with an all-black cast and African-American styles, boldly showed that this classic story belongs to everyone, with audiences of all races flocking to watch productions of “The Wiz” over the past four decades. In addition to be culturally empowering, it is a “joy machine,” gorgeously designed, with quick humor and irresistible melodies.

Preparations for our production began last fall with a technical theater class. Seven students spent a semester learning what goes on behind the scenes to design theatrical sets, sound, costume, props and lighting. Theater professors and crew leaders at the University of Colorado-Boulder and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts welcomed the group and gave extensive backstage tours of their facilities.

A record-breaking number of Eagle Rock students auditioned for “The Wiz” in December, and were cast based on their acting, singing and dancing abilities, in addition to their commitment to creating a healthy ensemble. The cast began all-day work on the production once returning to campus in January. In addition to demanding rehearsals, the students have spent time investigating the show’s cultural history, and will be leading discussions with the Eagle Rock community in the coming weeks about the show’s social and cultural context.

The story follows Dorothy, an aimless Kansas girl, as she gets swept up in a tornado and lands in the Land of Oz, a twisted and colorful version of New York City. Disoriented and homesick, she meets the munchkins and their idol, Addaperle, the feel-good girl. Trying to get home, she is sent on her way to meet the Wiz, who can do “almost anything for anyone.”

The Wiz 2

On this journey she encounters lots of dangerous creatures, like the Kalidahs and Poppies, who test the resolve of her and her new friends: the Scarecrow, Tinman and the Lion. Once getting to the flashy Emerald City, the all-powerful, self-obsessed Wiz sends them on a quest to kill Evillene, the baddest witch in Oz. Accomplishing this — and as their journey ends — each of the four friends learn how to harness the power that they have inside themselves.

The Wiz stars Eagle Rock students Aviv Kirtner as Dorothy, Javon Banks as the Scarecrow, Djibril Cayolbah as the Tinman, Soren Arvidson as the Lion, and Aaron Simon as The Wiz. It also stars students Zoe Johansen as Aunt Em and Glinda, Jonas Troy as Addaperle, Courtney Coleman as Evillene, and Brianna Campbell as Munchkin and ensemble. Public Allies Teaching fellows Aranda Salazar portrays the Gatekeeper, Chris Iafrati is the Messenger, while Instructional Specialists Janet Johnson plays Lord High Underling, Cynthia Elkins is in the ensemble. Students June Jones-Knight and Javonnie Campbell are co-stage managers, as well as playing various ensemble roles.

Event Details

  • What: Eagle Rock School’s Production of “The Wiz”
  • Where: Hempel Auditorium at the YMCA of the Rockies (Estes Park)
  • When: Thursday, March 31, 2016 @ 7:30pm; Friday, April 1, 2016 @ 7:30pm; Saturday, April 2, 2016 @ 7:30pm
  • Tickets: May be purchased at the door (price: Pay What You’d Like!)
  • Proceeds: Benefit Eagle Rock School’s Graduate Higher Education Fund

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