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‘The Wiz’ hits the Albion stage, promoting friendship and home

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 March 2014 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – The four main characters in The Wiz become close friends, relying on each other in the Kingdom of Oz. The group includes the Lion (Steven Stass), Dorothy (Lydia Erakare), Scarecrow (Josh Raymond) and Tinman (Kyle Thaine).

The Wizard (Zach Shaffer) will only grant their wishes if they kill the Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West. The Albion drama department created the Wizard’s throne room to have a psychedelic feeling with lights, smoke, and pyrotechnics.

ALBION – Dorothy thinks Kansas is boring and just wants out of the place, to go anywhere else. Then a twister hits, and she finds herself in the Kingdom of Oz with Munchkins.

In a foreign land, Dorothy wants to go home. She misses her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry.

Lydia Erakare plays the role of Dorothy in Albion High School’s production of “The Wiz” tonight and Saturday at the middle school auditorium. Erakare is a senior and she admitted right around January she was eager to leave small-town Albion. She will be a student beginning June 30 at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, College of the Performing Arts, in New York City.

“Dorothy leaves home and realizes how good she had it,” Erakare said. “She better appreciates her family and friends.”

Dorothy (Lydia Erakare) is eager to get out of Kansas. She is pictured with her Aunt Em (Jenna Reigle) and Toto (Maxwell Thaine).

Some of the munchkins include Joe Madejski, center, and Nathaniel Trembley.

Erakare said college will be like a trip to Oz, making special friends along the way, but she said her heart will always be in Albion. The musical concludes with her singing “Home.”

The Wiz slightly varies from the popular film. Dorothy has silver shoes, for example, rather than ruby slippers. There are two good witches in the musical: Glinda and Addaperle. The Wicked Witch of the West, Evillene, doesn’t have green skin or a big ugly hat.

Angela Tarricone plays Evillene. She wears what she called a jazzy and sparkly outfit. However, she brings a bossy persona to the stage.

“It’s really fun,” Tarricone said about the role. “I love being the opposite of who I really am.”

The show includes some special effects, with Evillene and The Wizard using flash pots to represent a magic spell. There are strobe lights, confetti canons and the stage crew rigged up fog for when Dorothy tosses water on Evillene, and she melts.

Evillene (Angela Tarricone) melts after being doused with water by Dorothy.

The stage crew didn’t have to create a robotic dog as Toto. The show includes a real dog, with Maxwell Thaine making its stage debut. The dog is owned by High School Band Director Michael Thaine and his family.

Musical director Gary Simboli wanted an ensemble show to highlight several strong leads. The show also features “an amazing group of dancers,” he said. They do 13 dance numbers.

The show carries a powerful message, Simboli said.

“It’s about believing in yourself,” he said. “You have everything inside you, you just have to believe in yourself.”

The Lion (Steven Stauss) appears on stage and tries to scare everybody, singing “(I’m a) Mean Ole Lion.”

The main characters realize that when they go to The Wizard. Ultimately, he can’t grant their wishes, but he shows them they already have the heart, brains and courage they were looking for.

Steven Stauss plays the Lion. Stauss is going to college on a football scholarship. He has been active in the drama program in high school.

“I just love performing on the big stage, whether it’s in the theater or on the football field,” he said.

He said he was grateful for one last chance on the theater stage in high school, and do it with some of his close friends. The four main characters have a strong camaraderie, he said.

“This is a story of friendship,” he said.

Madeline Fournier plays a good witch, Addaperle. Albion made all of the costumes for the show except the Tin Man’s outfit, which was rented. Karen Dibley and Kathy Winans made most of the outfits.

Albion’s musical typically receive many awards from the Stars of Tomorrow program through the Rochester Broadway Theatre League. Erakare, who is pursuing musical theater in college, said Albion’s high-caliber shows have prepared her for college.

“I’m lucky to be in a high school where theater is important,” she said.

Shows are 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday with a noon performance on Saturday.