>THE WIZ by The SRT's Young Co.

>reviewed by jeremy samuel

>date: 24 aug 2003
>time: 8pm
>venue: dbs arts centre
>rating: ***1/2

>tired already? go home then
>review junkie? whitney, give them this click to sniff

>look, we know that you need to know that we, as responsible reviewers, have some quantifiable categories to rate productions, and are not just relying on some undefinable instinct or gut feeling. So to put your mind at ease, we will give you a logical rating system based on the practitioner's vision / and the reviewer's response of a particular production. Here it is then: ***** : Transcendent / Rapturous. ****: Crystal / Appreciative. ***: Transmitted / Thoughtful. **:Vague / Unsatisfied. * : Uncommunicated / Mystified. Yet in the end, you will feel that this is (1) a cheap attempt to justify the subjective arbitrariness of our rating system (2) buttressed by an interest in the logical (and inevitable) categorisation of such productions, which is (3) undermined by the cheapness of the attempt, and (4) confused by the creeping feeling you are getting that we are dead serious in our feeling that this rating system is an accurate description of the content, intent and quality of the production. Oh please -- does it even matter now? Look, at least we tried.

>>>>>over the rainbow

THE WIZ started out as a seventies Broadway production that was very much a product of its times, an updating of 'The Wizard of Oz' that saw an adult, African-American Dorothy getting caught up in a trippy train of events after being swept away by a freak snowstorm. The film version, starring a hysterical Diana Ross and Michael Jackson (Michael Jackson!) back when he was black, released in 1978, was unbearably turgid.

The Young Co.'s version of this musical is thankfully lighter and fresher. Gone are the bloated set pieces, the slow, slow songs, and the baby-dangling singer. The story undergoes a radical revision, so Dorothy (a charming Mariel Reyes) wakes up in a bar ("Club Oz") after a night on the tiles, and has to figure out how to get back home.

>>'THE WIZ delivers a good night out at the theatre'

From the minute the munchkins prance on in their multi-coloured costumes, you can tell this show is going to be, if nothing else, a bundle of fun. Every member of the cast brings a great deal of energy to their role, and the ensemble as a whole work well together - one of the benefits of their being an established company.

Standing out in particular are Lynn Ang, who brings an enjoyable earthy humour to the part of good witch Addaperle, and Josephine Tan as lean, mean Evillene - she slinks around in black leather and wields her whip so convincingly you wonder what her day job is. The undoubted star of the show is Marcus Yi as the scarecrow, who combines physical humour with acid one-liners to create an unforgettable character.

There is a lot to treasure in this production, from a completely gratuitous tap dance to Julie Wee's gloriously ditzy gatekeeper. There are also glaring flaws - the diction of some of the cast leaves a lot to be desired, and the dancing is not very polished, although Richard Chia's slick choreography papers over a lot of cracks. Accents are also inconsistent, with some members of the cast attempting an American accent with varying degrees of success, and others not bothering.

None of this really detracts from the sheer enjoyment of the evening, though. Directors Wendy Ng and Mark Waite are adept at playing up the strengths of the cast, and the energy, enthusiasm and commitment of the actors make one willing to forgive a lot. THE WIZ may be a little rough around the edges, but it delivers a good night out at the theatre.