'The Wiz' eases on into Mac
The musical will play at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through May 25. Tickets are $14 for students and seniors, $16 for others. To make reservations, call 503-472-2227.
The Saturday, May 11, show will be a fundraiser for the Chaplain’s Pantry, a new food program at McMinnville Cooperative Ministries. Tickets are available from Jenn Brewer, at 503-472-5622 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The Wiz” was written by William F. Brown with music and Lyrics by Charlie Smalls, who were inspired by L. Frank Baum’s original book, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” The hip new version became a Broadway hit in the 1970s and was made into a movie starring Michael Jackson and Diana Ross.
The movie didn’t do the show justice, according to Mark C. Pederson, who is directing Gallery’s version. He plans to bring the magic back on stage with a strong cast of adults and children; a whimsical set; imaginative effects, masks and puppetry.
He’s also promising clever costumes. Think of the Cowardly Lion in a 1970s-inspired leisure suit. “Imaginative realism,” he calls it.
This is Pederson’s third outing as a director at Gallery. In addition to directing “The Music Man” and “Scrooged,” he has acted in shows such as “The Fantasticks” and “Don’t Dress for Dinner.”
He likes being on either side of a production. “Directing is such a cool, creative outlet,” he said. “With this show, it’s especially that way. There’s more leeway to be creative.”
“The Wiz,” like “Wizard of Oz,” starts out on a farm, where Dorothy (Cassandra Pangelinan) lives with her aunt (Kelly Ashton) and uncle (JP Kloninger). She’s been through some hard times, Pederson said.
“The show allows her to triumph over tremendous obstacles, as long as she keeps moving forward with a positive attitude,” he said.
Then a big storm hits, and Dorothy isn’t in Kansas anymore. She’s transported to a colorful, inner city version of Oz.
Along the way, she meets Munchkins, flying monkeys and an assortment of witches, including kindly Glinda (Ashton, in a dual role), sassy Addaperle (Leticia Duran) and darn right mean Evillene (Antonia Osterhout).
Comedy is intermixed with the drama, Pederson said. “It’s funny, but with heart-wrenching parts.”
He said the music is a great mixture of rock, gospel and soul. Some of the songs, such as “Ease on Down the Road” and the ballad, “Home,” became hits after the movie was released.
In addition to singing, the show features dancing in a variety of genres, from ballet to tap. Kalie Ferry, who also acts in the show, is the choreographer.
More than 100 people auditioned for Gallery’s “The Wiz.” Pederson cast more than 40, including actors he said are “perfect” as Dorothy and her friends, the hip Scarecrow (Cesar Anguiano), the mama’s boy Lion (Lee Hinton) and the uptight Tin Man (Nick Quinteros).
Other members of the cast are: Stacey Jarvis, The Wiz; Meridith Symons, the gatekeeper; Molly Cox, Travis Cox, Jordan Ferry, Adrian Martin, Crescent Nelson, Micah Porter. Jordan Bailey, Evan Ewing, Molly Janssen and Lexi Thomson play Munchkins and other roles.
Other Munchkins are Hannah Anderson, Julia Caswell, Brooke Ashton, Madison Highley, Tristan Ferry, Connor Frost, Abby Meador, Makayla Norwood, Noah Norwood, Daphne Riddle, Ian Romero, Jesse Sanders, Madeline Smith, Ashlyn Zollinger and Brenten Zollinger.
Members of the adult chorus are Maddie Bisgyer, Tracy Ewing, Lindsay Ramer, Amarie Cook, Ethan Keleher, Aryc Kloninger, Vivian Nice, Charleigh Pearson and Hope Snyder.
Many of the actors are local students or recent graduates of McMinnville High School. Mac High and Gallery is partnering on the production.
Robin Y. Pederson, the show’s music director, teaches choir at Mac High. Several members of the live band play with MHS jazz ensembles.
Miriam Peterson is assistant director and stage manager. Robert Osterhout oversees tech for all Gallery shows.
Tyler Fuqua designed The Wiz puppet. Dee Boyles is the scenic designer. Luke Zimmerman designed the costumes.
Cathy Long painted the murals. Crescent Moon Nelson did other scenic painting, using paint from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.
An artists’ reception for the “The Wiz” designers and painters will be held in conjunction with the May 4 show. Free food and wine will be served.