‘The Wiz’ eases on down to the Strand

Christopher Leon Pittman

Many Boston actors dream of going to New York and making it big on Broadway. But for the upcoming revival of the hit musical “The Wiz,” presented by the Fiddlehead Theatre Company (FTC) at the Strand, the direction of that flow has been reversed.

Several New York actors are following that Yellow Brick Road to Uphams Corner, hoping to make it big on Columbia Road.

“The Wiz,” the funky, black-cast re-telling of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum won seven Tony awards including Best Musical and Best Original Score, with its exuberant mixture of rock, gospel, and soul. Those familiar only with the Michael Jackson/Diana Ross film will find that this original 1975 musical version adheres much more closely to Baum’s settings and story line than the 1978 movie did.

FTC, the resident company at the Strand, once again will offer a Dorchester resident bargain at a day-of-show (one hour before curtain) rate of $10 per ticket. Dot residents should come to the box office with an ID.

A number of bona-fide Big Apple artists – both two- and four-legged – are rehearsing tirelessly for the show’s six presentations (Fri., Feb. 13-Sun., Feb. 15; Fri., Feb. 20-Sun., Feb. 22).

According to Meg Fofonoff, FTC’s producing artistic director, “With “The Wiz” we are upping the ante once again and bringing our most ambitious project to the stage to date. We have brought in top performers and crew members from across the region and New York who are passionate about theater and our mission. We are especially excited to be working with Bill Berloni, a Tony-honored Broadway animal trainer and his rescue Dusty, who will play “Toto” in the production. Dusty is a true stage veteran, having played “Toto” for audiences all across the country. We invite Boston audiences to come see “The Wiz” and join Fiddlehead as we ease on down the road at the Strand.

Besides the adorable B’way vet cairn terrier, human NY actors with national credits include Carl-Michael Ogle (Scarecrow) and Damian Norfleet (Lion).

Portraying Dorothy is local rising star Quiana Holmes, currently a sophomore at Berklee College of Music. Quiana recently played Deena Jones (the Diana Ross role) in Berklee’s staging of “Dreamgirls.”
And bridging the NY-MA gap is the director and costume designer of “The Wiz,” Stacey Stephens, FTC associate producing artistic director. His extensive credits on Broadway and for Fiddlehead were included in a Dec. 24, 2014, Reporter profile, which announced his move from New York to Jones Hill to be in walking distance of the Strand.

Also in the cast is Dot resident Christopher Leon, another Berklee grad who has appeared in Fiddlehead’s productions of “A Little Princess” and “Ragtime,” as well as in several shows with the Ashmont-based Gold Dust Orphans company.

Thanks to a generous sponsor, Fiddlehead is again working with the Boston Public Schools to offer BPS students an opportunity to experience Broadway-quality theater during the two-week run of “The Wiz.”

Find out much more about “The Wiz” and the company’s April/May production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” at the Strand at fiddleheadtheatre.com.

And remember: Don’t forget your green spectacles!

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly spelled Damian Norfleet's name.