A new version of The Wizard of Oz for children 4 to 104 opened at the Harlem Repertory Theater.
The Harlem Repertory Theatre staging of “The Wizard of Oz,” co-produced by the Yip Harburg Foundation, for young and young-at-heart audiences opened at Tato Laviera Theatre at Harlem Prep Elementary School, 240 East 123rd Street and running from October 8 to December 13.
The production of the classic musical has a multi-racial cast, a jazzy underscore and dramaturgy by representatives of the Yip Harburg Foundation. The schedule offers weekday shows for school groups and Saturday matinees for families., Artistic Director of Harlem Rep, who is in the midst of a four-year project of presenting four classic musicals that have lyrics by E.Y. “Yip” Harburg, who was known in his lifetime as the “social conscience of Broadway.” Directed and choreographed by Keith Lee Grant “The Wizard of Oz,” has a timeless score and allegories that make a magical experience for audiences. Based on MGM’s classic motion picture.
The stage version follows John Kane’s adaptation for the Royal Shakespeare Company, which is based on the book by L. Frank Baum, with brilliant songs by lyricist E.Y. (“Yip”) Harburg and composer Harold Arlen.
The cast is multi-racial and features Latino, Black and Asian actors, fulfilling Yip’s vision of a multicultural universe.
Dorothy, played by Taylor-Rey Rivera, is interpreted as a modern girl and future leader who is growing to realize the confidence she possesses. Her three Land-of-Oz friends–the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion–are envisioned as people of great potential who only need to actualize the heart, brains and courage they already have. One of the story’s themes is how the weakness of adults forces children to seize their own destinies and, ironically, to grow up themselves. According to the Yip Harburg family, Yip wanted to address Dorothy finally going home as a leader. At Harlem Rep, Dorothy will come home to lead the rebuilding of her family’s farm. All the “refocusing” is accomplished through the acting of the characters, without changing the iconic dialogue of the script.
The jazzy arrangements by percussionist Dan Aran are entwined with the classic arrangements. The orchestra is a jazz trio of Dan Aran on percussion, Martha Kato on piano and Yoshi Waki on bass.
E.Y. “Yip” Harburg was lyricist of the Depression anthem “Brother Can You spare a Dime? Today he is best known for the film lyrics from the “The Wizard of Oz” and its signature song, “Over the Rainbow.”
The Harlem Repertory Theatre is a non-profit theater committed to producing artistically and intellectually challenging productions that explore the experiences of a diverse range of ethnic, social and cultural communities.
Photography Opening Night Barry Gordin