MSMT to present 'The Wiz'

Posted Wednesday, August 3, 2011 in Culture

MSMT to present 'The Wiz'

BRUNSWICK — Maine State Music Theatre will close its season with the Tony Award-winning musical "The Wiz," playing Aug. 10-27 at the Pickard Theater on the Bowdoin campus.

"The Wiz" brings a mix of soul, rock and gospel music to Brunswick and a twist on L. Frank Baum’s iconic story “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” MSMT alumna Donna Drake is directing this production, with choreography by Mark Stuart. MSMT will present "The Wiz" as it was originally intended, with an all African-American cast. Broadway veterans Gwen Stewart, LaQuet Sharnell, Eric B. Anthony, E. Clayton Cornelious, Nikkeili DeMone, Bobby Daye and Gayle Turner are in the cast.

In "The Wiz," as in Baum’s famous story, Dorothy, the little girl from Kansas, is blown by a tornado into the Land of Oz, where she meets the Scarecrow, the Tinman and the Lion, defeats the evil witch, and goes to see the powerful Wizard. The themes of finding yourself and finding your way home are the powerful lessons learned from the story.

The winner of seven Tony Awards for its 1975 Broadway opening, the show includes songs “Home,” “Ease on Down the Road,” “Believe in Yourself” and “Brand New Day.” The musical was made into a movie in 1978, starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson.

Drake was the director of MSMT's productions of "Aida," "Hairspray," "All Shook Up," "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" and "Chicago." She is known for giving equal weight to the music and dance. Choreographer Stuart returns to Brunswick with his innovative and very athletic style of dance. He had choreographed "Swing!" and "Grand Hotel" at MSMT, among others.

Actress Gwen Stewart is making her MSMT debut, and wil protray both Evillene (the “Wicked Witch”) and Addaperle (one of the “Good Witches”). She was a member of the original Broadway cast of "Rent." Stewart has been seen on television in popular shows like “House,” “24,” “Law & Order,” and “Charmed.”

Playing Dorothy is LaQuet Sharnell. Her Broadway credits include "The Lion King" and "Sweet Charity." Sharnell is also an award-winning dancer who teaches voice, dance and acting. This will be her first time performing with Maine State Music Theatre. 

Eric B. Anthony is no stranger to MSMT audiences; he was Seaweed in MSMT’s 2007 production of "Hairspray." Anthony was a member of the original Broadway company of "Mary Poppins." He will play the Scarecrow in this prodcution.

E. Clayton Cornelious (the Tin Man) and Nikkieli DeMone (the Lion) will be making their MSMT debut. Both have extensive Broadway and TV comercial credits.

Playing Aunt Em and Glinda will be MSMT newcomer Gayle Turner. She played Dorothy in the original Broadway production of "The Wiz" in 1975.

Maine State Music Theatre’s production of "The Wiz" is sponsored by Bath Savings Institution, Wright Express and Norton Insurance & Financial. MSMT’s entire 2011 season is sponsored by The Highlands and Highland Green.

Tickets are on sale now at the MSMT box office. Purchase in person, or call 725-8769, or purchase online at Matinees are at 2 p.m. and evening shows are at 7:30 p.m. For specific dates and availability, contact the box office or visit the website.

MSMT has other August events planned. Euan Morton will perform in a concert event at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 15, and another children’s musical is planned for Aug. 22, a new interpretation of "Beauty and The Beast" written by MSMT alumni Marc Robin and Curt Dale Clark.

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