Ryan Blanning (Tin Man), Ashli Fisher (Dorothy) and Michael Smith (Scarecrow) “Ease on Down the Road” in "The Wiz."
Welcome to a land of Oz you’ve never seen. One filled with multimedia imagery, a wide and wild style of dance moves performed by a cast of 29 actors, and inhabited by a mysterious person known as The Wiz.
Sacramento State’s Theatre and Dance Department presents William F. Brown’s Tony Award-winning, rock-and-soul version of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” as interpreted by director and Professor Melinda Wilson Ramey.
Performances are at 8 p.m. April 8-9, 15-16 and 22-23; 2 p.m. April 10, 17 and 24; and 6:30 p.m. April 14 and 21. Tickets for the 6:30 performances are $7 for children 12 and under, and $10 general admission. All other performances are $10 for children, $12 for students and seniors and $15 general. Group rates are also available. Tickets are available at the University Ticket Office, (916) 278-4323 or www.tickets.com.
Wilson Ramey has updated the 1974 version of The Wiz, noting that Facebook, smart phones, and other social networking media have become something of a land of Oz for today’s students. This version also includes references to current pop culture figures such as Lady Gaga and Beyonce. “It’s very much nontraditional,” Wilson Ramey says.
The entire approach to presenting the material has also been revamped. “There’s video, there’s puppetry, there are a few magic tricks. It’s a combination of different elements,” Wilson Ramey says.
Choreographer and department Chair Linda Goodrich is working with six assistant choreographers, with each dance number reflecting a different style, such as krumping, tap dancing, African-Caribbean styles and more, says Ryan Blanning, who plays the Tin Man. “We have one of the best choreography groups any university could have,” he says.
All the cast members are enthused about the production.
Sean Nill, who plays the Cowardly Lion, is most impressed with the music. “It’s a fantastic score.”
Ashli Fisher, who plays Dorothy, is intrigued with her character, who is somewhat bitter and rebellious at the beginning of the play. “This Dorothy has a lot of spunk and attitude,” Fisher says. “You see a lot of character development with her that people don’t normally see in Dorothy.”
As if all this wasn’t enough, Wilson Ramey has planned some other surprises.
Each performance will include a special guest cameo appearance by community or Sac State leaders such as West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon and University President Alexander Gonzalez.
On April 15 and 22, the public is invited to attend a dance master class and learn the steps to The Wiz’s signature number, “Ease on Down the Road.” They may then join the cast on stage that night for a special encore of the number. Cost is $15 and does not include the price of the ticket.
And the final dress rehearsal the morning of April 8 will be a special performance before an invited audience of local middle school students.
The musical is also an “early starter” for Sac State’s annual Festival of the Arts, which runs April 13-16.
“It’s amazing how the vision has come to fruition,” Wilson Ramey says. “It’s a lot of people working extremely hard and putting their heart and soul into the show.”
For more on The Wiz, visit www.csus.edu/dram. For more on the Festival of the Arts, visit www.csus.edu/festival. Media assistance is available at Sacramento State’s Public Affairs office, (916) 278-6156.