At The Wiz, A View of Oz Through Lime-colored Glasses

Theater Caps are bite-sized punch-packing capsule reviews by resident theater critic Elaine Liner. Use them as a reminder -- or a teaser, if you procrastinate -- of her full-length reviews in The Mixmaster's weekly sister.

Yes, when you go to The Wiz, the ushers hand you a pair of cardboard glasses as you take your seat in one of the moving "pods" in the Wyly Theatre. The green cellophane lenses provide a lovely tint to the Emerald City on the scenery by designer Jo Wisniarski.

When Dorothy (Trisha Jeffrey) and her heart-, brain-, courage-needing friends skip up to the gates of Oz, the guard gives them glasses, too. Gimmicks like this abound in Dallas Theater Center artistic director Kevin Moriarty's production of the 1975 musical.

DTC's heavily edited, 90-minute version is a cooperative project with Dallas Black Dance Theatre. These marvelous professional dancers play the Munchkins (seated on rolling stools under their big hoopskirts), Winkies, Kalidas, crows and flying monkeys -- all the creatures who occupy the colorful world created by author L. Frank Baum more than a century ago. They even dance the tornado at the top of the show.

The choreography by Christopher Huggins is so spectacular it almost makes up for the weaknesses in the basic bones of The Wiz.

It's not one of the great American musicals, despite a couple of good R&B ballads with Dorothy's song "Home" and the Tinman's lament "What Would I Do if I Could Feel" (words and music by Charlie Smalls).

Reliably good acting and singing come from DTC regulars Liz Mikel as wicked witch Evillene, Denise Lee as good witch Glinda and Hassan El-Amin as the Wizard. Hired-in actress Jeffrey plays Dorothy as if she doesn't care if she ever sees Kansas again. The flying monkeys show more emotion. All the principals are out-of-town imports who blew in for a short stay in Oz.

Like Dorothy landing amid the Munchkins.

Tip if you're planning to go: Don't waste $80 on those rolling pod seats. The best tickets for this show are the $15 cheapies in the balconies. Those give you the best view of all the great dancing by the DBDT.

The Wiz continues through August 7 at the Wyly Theatre. Call 214-880-0202.

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