Ease on down the road as THE WIZ returns to First Stage this February

Directed by Sheri Williams-Pannell and Ameenah Kaplan


Milwaukee, WIJanuary 29, 2018 Originally conceived by First Stage in 2010, the Theatre for Young Audiences version of THE WIZ is back home. It’s the timeless classic you know and love, with a modern, soulful twist. When an epic tornado lands Dorothy in a faraway place, she is sent on an unforgettable adventure to defeat the Wicked Witch of the West, and find the great and powerful Wiz to help her return home. Audiences can expect a spectacular musical journey as Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tinman, and the Cowardly Lion ease on down the yellow brick road to the magical land of Oz.

THE WIZ runs February 23 – March 25, 2018 at the Marcus Center’s Todd Wehr Theater, located at 929 N. Water Street in downtown Milwaukee. Tickets can be purchased in person at the Marcus Center Box Office at 929 N. Water Street, by phone at (414) 273-7206 or online at www.firststage.org. Suggested for families with young people ages 6 – 16.

Under the musical direction of Antonie Reynolds, favorite songs such as “Ease on Down the Road” and “Home” shine in this production. Professional theater actors including Milwaukee favorites Cynthia Cobb, Raven Dockery, DiMonte Henning, James Carrington, Shawn Holmes and two alternating casts of 16 First Stage young performers take the stage. Young performers Reese Parish and Camara Stampley take on the role of Dorothy.

“This exciting remount of THE WIZ is an homage to Geoffrey Holder, the show’s original director and choreographer.  An Afrocentric esthetic predominates our design and informs the choreography of my co-director Ameenah Kaplan,” said co-director Sheri Williams Pannell. “Ameenah is a sought after choreographer and percussionist with auspicious credits including “Dancing with the Stars,” BlueMan Group and others.”

THE WIZ – TYA Version was adapted from “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” By L. Frank Baum. Book by William F. Brown. Additional Material by Tina Tippit. Music and Lyrics by Charlie Smalls © Copyright 1975, 1979, 2006, 2010. Orchestrations by Richard Carsey.


THE WIZ is sponsored by Actuant. The media sponsors are FOX 6 and Shepherd Express.




Sheri Williams Pannell (Co-director) has a long association with First Stage where she has performed (SMOLDERING FIRES, A WOMAN CALLED TRUTH, PERSEUS BAYOU, THE WIZ, CLICK CLACK MOO: COWS THAT TALK, HOLES, THE HUNDRED DRESSES, A MIDNIGHT CRY) and directed (MUFARO’S BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTERS, THE THREE LITTLE PIGS, THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM:1963, THE WIZ, TO THE PROMISED LAND). Last Season, First Stage commissioned Pannell to write WELCOME TO BRONZEVILLE, which she also directed. Pannell has worked at Skylight Music Theatre, The Rep, Intandem and Milwaukee Chamber Theatre. She is an Artistic Associate in Education, Literary Management, and Community Engagement at First Stage. She also is producing artistic director at Bronzeville Arts Ensemble and co-directs the drama ministry at Calvary Baptist Church. Pannell is a graduate of Spelman College and holds a MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


Ameenah Kaplan (Co-director/Choreographer) Academy of Art University Film School. New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts for Acting. Acting: Recurring Guest Star roles on “The Office,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” among others. Original American cast of STOMP. As a director, she recently helmed THE ROYALE at Seattle’s ACT Theater and “Molodi: UpClose And Personal” for Las Vegas’ premiere body percussion. Her most recent short, “Man With a Movie Camera” premiered at Hollyshorts Film Festival in 2014. She directed the film “The American Failure” to multiple festivals and awards. She has directed for Noah Wylie’s Young Playwright’s Festival. She serves as a drum coach for BlueMan Group and has choreographed more than two-dozen shows for stage and TV, including “Dancing with the Stars.” She is the recipient of multiple NAACP, LA Weekly, and Ovation awards.

The adult actor cast of THE WIZ includes: Cynthia Cobb (Member of Actors’ Equity Association) as Aunt Em/Glinda; Darrington Clark (Member of Actors’ Equity Association) as Tin Man; Dimonte Henning (Member of Actors’ Equity Association) as Scarecrow. Also included in the adult cast are: Candace Thomas (Member of Actors’ Equity Association) as Addaperle; James Carrington as Lion; Raven Dockery as Evilene; Shawn Holmes as Uncle Henry/The Wiz; Becky Cofta as the understudy to Candace Thomas and Raven Dockery; Haley San Fillippo as the understudy to Cynthia Cobb; First Stage Fellow Justin Lee as the understudy to James Carrington and Shawn Holmes; and Keegan Siebken as the understudy to Darrington Clark and DiMonte Henning.


Young performer roles are double cast. Young performers in the Munchkin Cast include Reese Parish (as Dorothy) from Glendale. Ensemble cast members are: Zora Allison, Terynn Erby-Walker, Jasmine Love, Kayami Jackson, Catalina Cruz, Michael Black, Ariel Nelson and Ryon Davis (from Milwaukee); Malia Westlake and Madeline Dixon (from Hartland); Harper Navin (from Franklin); AJ Wielichowski (from Oak Creek); Reese Bell (from Cedarburg); Ben Kindler (from Brookfield); and Elliott Lehman (from Colgate).


Young performers in the Winkie Cast include Camara Stampley (as Dorothy) from Milwaukee. Ensemble cast members are: Sarah Melcher (from Shorewood); Ashley Nord, Charli Clevert and Sam Gist (from Glendale); Isabel Bastardo (from St. Francis); Raniyah Edwards, Alexandria Woods, Tahji Johnson, and Zaria Johnson (from Milwaukee); Greta Carlson (from Fox Point); Loralei Madson (from West Allis); Helaina Grossmeyer (from Lannon); Benjamin Schulz (from Germantown); Luke Brotherhood (from Mequon); and Alex Radtke (from Cedarburg).


The Artistic Staff for THE WIZ: Antonie Reynolds (Music Director); Kurtis Boetcher (Scenic Designer); Jesse Klug, USAA (Lighting Designer); Nick Belley, USAA (Associate Lighting Designer); Theresa Ham, USAA (Costume Designer); Matt Whitmore (Sound Designer); Melissa L. Wanke, Member of Actors’ Equity Association (Stage Manager) and Lauren Gingold (Assistant Stage Manager).


Tickets start at $15 – Tickets may be purchased at www.firststage.org or through the Marcus Center box office, in person at 929 N. Water Street in downtown Milwaukee or by phone (414) 273-7206 or toll free at (888) 612-3500. The number for TDD (for deaf and hard of hearing patrons) is (414) 273-3080.

Group Sales – Groups of 10 or more receive 15% off main floor, regular single ticket prices on most First Stage performances at the Marcus Center’s Todd Wehr Theater. Call (414) 267-2964 or email groups@firststage.org for more information.

First Stage Family Packages – any combination of tickets for three or more plays in our 2017-18 season – are on sale now. Family package prices are available at up to 30% off the cost of regular single ticket prices. Benefits include unlimited ticket exchanges, free family workshops, backstage tours and more.


Special events for THE WIZ


Opening Night Reception: Friday, February 23, 2018

Following the opening night performance, First Stage invites all patrons to attend the Opening Night Reception at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, located one mile from the Marcus Center at 325 W. Walnut Street. Patrons can mix and mingle with the cast and crew of THE WIZ while enjoying refreshments, courtesy of First Stage.


Pay What You Choose performance: Tuesday, February 27, 2018 at 7:00 p.m.

Pay What You Choose tickets are available on a first come, first served basis with a minimum suggested donation of $5 per person. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. on the day of the performance. Patrons are encouraged to arrive early.


ASL Interpreted Performance: Sunday, March 25 at 1:00 p.m.

This performance will be sign language interpreted for patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing. Assistive listening devices are also available at the Todd Wehr Theater.



About First Stage
First Stage is one of the nation’s leading theaters for young people and families. First Stage touches hearts, engages minds, and transforms lives by creating extraordinary theater experiences through professional theater productions that inspire, enlighten, and entertain. Its Theater Academy, the nation’s largest high-impact theater training program for young people, fosters life skills through stage skills and serves over 2,100 students each year. As Wisconsin’s leader in arts-integrated education in schools, First Stage’s dynamic Theater in Education programs promote literacy, character building, and experiential learning throughout the curriculum, serving over 20,000 students each year. First Stage was selected to participate in the Partners in Education program of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (2012), and was the recipient of the Milwaukee Business Journal’s Eureka Award, recognizing creativity and innovation in business, education, and the arts for its Next Steps program for students on the autism spectrum (2013). First Stage is a member of TYA/USA, the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, the Wisconsin Alliance for Arts Education, Theatre Wisconsin, Milwaukee Arts Partners, and is a cornerstone member of the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF).

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