Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Fringe 2018 review: 'El Wiz' is a life-affirming celebration suitable for the whole familia

Posted By on Tue, May 15, 2018 at 11:15 AM

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L. Frank Baum’s beloved book The Wizard of Oz has already been transplanted to Harlem, to high school and to a Sam Raimi-directed hellscape. Now writer-director Paul Castañeda and composer Juan Cantú have taken the next logical leap and adapted the childhood classic into El Wiz, a big-hearted bilingual tribute to the resilient people of Puerto Rico.

Tio Enrique (Stephen Lima) narrates the tale of his niece Dorothy (Crystal Lizardo), who is felled by a brick during Hurricane Maria and wakes up in a wonderland ruled by warring witches, Bruja Buena (Alina Alcantara) and Bruja Mala (Leesa Castañeda). With a pair of sparkling sneakers on her feet, Dorothy sets off to meet El Wiz (Frey Ruiz), encountering an Aspie Scarecrow (Erick Sureda, whose dance moves masterfully blend Ray Bolger and M.J.), a gay Tin Man (Erick Perafan) and an alcoholic León (Joe Lllorens) along the camino amarillo.

The leads of El Wiz have big voices (especially Lizardo and Perafan), and they’re backed up by an even bigger chorus. The Latino pop soundtrack owes a debt to In the Heights, and while its songs won’t displace Arlen & Harburg’s in the popular consciousness, the anthemic “Mi Isla” is an honorable substitute for “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

As a Broadway fan I laughed heartily at many of the heavy-handed Hamilton references, but with over two dozen performers and multiple running gags, some of the storytelling subtleties (not to mention Sterling Lovett’s choreography) get lost in the shuffle. Nitpicks aside, it’s impossible not to admire this company’s ambition in transforming an ongoing national tragedy into a life-affirming celebration suitable for the whole familia.

El Wiz
Paul Castaneda, Orlando, FL
7 & Up
60 Minutes
Orange Venue
Wednesday, May 16, 2018 @ 8:00 PM
Saturday, May 19, 2018 @ 12:45 PM
Monday, May 21, 2018 @ 8:30 PM
Saturday, May 26, 2018 @ 2:15 PM
Sunday, May 27, 2018 @ 6:45 PM

Check out ALL of our Fringe 2018 reviews at orlandoweekly.com/fringe2018

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