‘The Wiz’ is coming to the Children’s Theatre Company stage

The cast of The Wiz. Top Row from left to right: Aimee Bryant, Jamecia Bennet, Greta Oglesby. Bottom Row from left to right: Dennis Spears, Paris Bennet, Rudolph "Tre" Searles III // Photo by Dan Norman

The cast of The Wiz. Top Row from left to right: Aimee Bryant, Jamecia Bennet, Greta Oglesby. Bottom Row from left to right: Dennis Spears, Paris Bennet, Rudolph “Tre” Searles III // Photo by Dan Norman

Tie up those laces and get ready to ease on down the road: “The Wiz,” the 1978 film adaptation of “The Wizard of Oz” featuring a singing, dancing Diana Ross and Michael Jackson, will be brought to the Children’s Theatre Company stage in an exciting collaboration with CTC and St. Paul’s Penumbra Theatre.

“It is a great thrill and honor to partner with Penumbra Theatre,” says CTC artistic director Peter C. Brosius. “They are a major force in the national theatre world as well as a local treasure. The insights and experience they bring to this partnership have been extraordinary and we look forward to continuing to find ways to work together.”

With direction by Penumbra’s founder Lou Bellamy, CTC’s partnership with the Twin Cities’ foremost African-American theater will bring the best of both companies to young audiences starting January 23 and running every Thursday through Sunday until March 18. Penumbra music director Sanford Moore has crafted a diverse mix of rock, gospel, and soul music that will surely set the groove as a cast of some of the Cities’ top acting talents find their way to the Wiz’s Harlem palace.

A costume concept drawing for the Brand New Day scene dancers // Illustration courtesy Children's Theater Company

A costume concept drawing for the Brand New Day scene dancers // Illustration courtesy Children’s Theater Company

“My concept for our production is rooted deeply in African-American history and custom,” says Lou Bellamy. “Dorothy’s journey from (in our production) Nicodemus, Kansas, to the Wiz’s palace in Harlem, pays homage to the Great Migration made during Reconstruction by thousands of African-Americans from rural environs to urban living.”

While the Children’s Theatre Company has been heralded nationwide as a powerhouse for youth-oriented productions, Penumbra’s 135-seat theater has been turning shows critically praised for their authentic exploration of African-American stories since its founding in 1976. The theater employs more actors, directors, dancers, choreographers, and administrators of color than every theater in Minnesota combined.

While CTC has teamed up with other theater companies in the past, the partnership with Penumbra has been the most integrative collaboration to date. “This relationship isn’t transactional,” says Penumbra Theatre artistic director Sarah Bellamy. “We are getting to a space of depth and real honesty with each other in terms of our conversations about equity, what our aesthetics are, how we can create a proactive, equitable, shared learning environment and that feels very unique.”