`Wiz' comes to Annapolis

Performance: The Talent Machine Company, with its cast of youngsters ages 4 to 18, will bring the 1970s version of `The Wizard of Oz' to St. John's Key Auditorium.

June 17, 1999|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

School is out, and the Talent Machine Company, with its 60-member cast of youngsters ages 4 to 18, will inaugurate vacation time for everyone with a show to delight audiences young in age and/or spirit: "The Wiz," upbeat and energetic, opens tomorrow.

The company's second summer show -- "42nd Street" -- will open July 23, with actors ages 12 to 20.

The Talent Machine Company is a nonprofit volunteer organization dedicated to developing children's performance skills and self-esteem.

Formed 11 years ago by professionally trained dancer, choreographer and master teacher Bobbi Smith, TMC has produced a string of hits including "Singin' in the Rain," "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," "The Wizard of Oz," and last season's "Peter Pan" and "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers." This season Smith is joined by her sister, Vicki Smith, who has danced professionally and has choreographed nationally and internationally televised shows including the Barcelona Olympic ceremonies.

Together the Smith sisters have enough theatrical experience to qualify as a formidable team to identify, develop and showcase young talent.

"The Wiz" opened on Broadway in 1975 with a rock score and updated dialogue to make the 1939 classic movie "The Wizard of Oz" relevant to the 1970s audience. The basic story remains, with Kansas girl Dorothy's adventures in the Land of Oz, where she meets the Scarecrow, Tinman and Cowardly Lion, along with the good and wicked witches and the all-powerful Wizard.

The show almost shut down in Baltimore during tryouts, but it managed to work some wizardry of its own and lasted for four years on Broadway, spawning touring shows and a 1978 movie featuring Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Lena Horne and Richard Pryor.

TMC's cast may not be as famous as the stars of the movie version, but the youngsters have so impressed local audiences with their talents that they are reaching star status in our county. Terrific singer Detto Flippo of Crofton, a 14-year-old who has been with TMC for six years, plays Aunt Em and Glenda the Good Witch. She sings "The Feeling We Once Had" and "A Rested Body," songs that give her a chance to shine.

Talented actor-singer Dan Sonntag of Annapolis, a 17-year-old veteran of 30 area productions, plays the Cowardly Lion. The Scarecrow is played by a TMC dancer with a growing reputation, 17-year-old Jake Thornhill of Bowie, who promises a display of acrobatic dancing and singing. Darren Biggart of Crownsville, 13, is expected to deliver a spectacular tap routine as the Tinman, and James Flanagan of Bowie, 18, whose tenor voice will be remembered by those who heard him in "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," will play the Wiz.

Eighth-grader Kristen Kushner of Severna Park plays Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West. TMC newcomer Irene Cooper, an 18-year-old senior at Annapolis High School, plays Dorothy, who will dissolve witches and give courage and comfort with a Motown beat to the Scarecrow, Tinman and Cowardly Lion.

Performances will be at St. John's Key Auditorium in Annapolis on weekends Thursdays through Sundays until July 3. Tickets are $10. At Saturday matinees this week and next, any child who can walk through the door of the Munchkin House at the theater's entrance without bending over will be allowed into the show for free.

Reservations and information: 410-956-0512.

Pub Date: 6/17/99

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