The Sheila Files: What the NY Press is saying about “The Wiz”

By Tuesday, June 23, 2009 0 No tags Permalink 0

You read’s review of “The Wiz.” And while some of you have called us Ashanti haters we are not alone. Read below to see what other NY theater critics have to say about this short run of “The Wiz.” My main problem with the show was Ashanti. If they had picked another “actress” I would have enjoyed it better:

“A fantasy bereft of magic” was how Variety‘s David Rooney described the musical. “There’s not enough imagination on tap here to make this ‘Good Times’-era artifact anything but a gaudy kids’ pantomime with quaint, jive-flavored sitcom dialogue.”

• The New York Times’ Charles Isherwood mostly slammed the show, calling it “busily energetic yet full of dead ends” and dismissing Ashanti as “a pretty place-holder, an empty vessel in a sparkly dress.” He added: “ ‘The Wiz’ in the current incarnation seems to be forever aerobically on the move and yet always at a complete standstill.”

• “The score constantly lifts up the show,” stated Elisabeth Vincentelli of the New York Post. “Which is good, because this ‘Wiz’ needs major support.”

• While noting standout performances by LaChanze and Tichina Arnold, Reuters’ Frank Scheck deemed the tuner unfit for Broadway, concluding, “This ‘Wiz’ doesn’t exactly make you want to click your heels.”

• Newsday’s Linda Winer gave the show a mixed review, commending helmer Kail’s “invention and affection” toward Brown’s original book but acknowledging that the production’s Dorothy underwhelms: “Ashanti proves not be a natural theater actor, and, even more surprising, her silvery voice sounds thin and bland against the pros.”

• Joe Dziemianowicz in the Daily News declared James Monroe Iglehart’s Lion “the evening’s standout,” suggesting that Kail’s lack of “concept or style to integrate the show into a cohesive story” was the musical’s biggest problem.

• In a mostly positive review, Bloomberg’s John Simon called it “truly a show for all ages and all imaginable audiences.” However, he echoed the general consensus on lackluster perfs from the leads.

• The AP’s Peter Santilli gave one of the few unequivocally positive reviews, calling the musical a “lavish, well-balanced production” and thoroughly praising Ashanti’s performance: “With wide-eyed charm and a can’t-miss voice, Ashanti makes the role her own while distinguishing herself among a skilled troupe of singers and dancers.”

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