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'The Wiz' Gets Revival in Southampton

Prior to August performance, Rogers Memorial Library hosts a preview of favorite songs.

"The Wiz," a musical that takes at different tack at the telling of L. Frank Baum's "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," will be performed in Southampton Village this August, but for those who can't wait there is a special free performance of fan favorite songs at Rogers Memorial Library on Sunday.

Tramar Pettaway, who plays The Scarecrow, and Nyeshia Padmore, as Dorothy, will sing accompanied by local pianist Nathan Daniels, giving a taste of what will be in store at the full production, which will take place at the Southampton Intermediate School auditorium. Leslie Duroseau, the pastor of Southampton United Methodist Church, directs.

"The Wiz" is being put on by Duroseau's Leap of Faith Ministries and Pettaway's new Hamptons Foundation for the Arts, which aims to bring African-American musicals to the East End.

Pettaway said he has pitched “The Wiz” as a school musical for years but was always turned down. Now 23, he decided to go forward with a local production himself.

“It was the easiest play to get the rights to do,” he said. “Not too many people do it.”

That is not to say it is not a well regarded play. It won seven Tony Awards when it had its Broadway debut in 1975, including best musical. It was also adapted into a film starring Michael Jackson and Diana Ross.

Pettaway said he wrote to Stephanie Mills, who portrayed Dorothy on Broadway, about their intention to bring "The Wiz" to Southampton, and she wrote back with her best wishes. And last summer, cast members performed at a fundraiser put on by Dhonna Goodale, who was Dorothy in European and Asian productions of “The Wiz” during the 1990s. “We got a very, very good response,” Pettaway said.

They have been planning to put on “The Wiz” since June, Duroseau said. “We hit some bumps in the road, especially after Hurricane Irene hit.”

A November performance was scheduled in Riverhead, but it was canceled when Irene interrupted rehearsals. “I couldn’t get back in my house for a week,” Duroseau said of the storm's aftermath. But now they are back on track.

The cast is a mix of actors with experience and novices. Duroseau said they put out a call to everyone: “If you love the theater, if you love the arts and want to be a part of it, show up.”

Padmore belongs to Dance Theatre Harlem, acted in the Harlem School of the Arts production of “MacBath” and sang at McDonald’s Gospelfest.

“This will be the perfect opportunity to fuse all those things I learned and showcase my ability,” she said.

Sam Johnson of Southampton plays The Wiz, himself.

“It was like tailor-made for him. He fits the part so well,” Duroseau said. “He has this distinct and powerful voice that says ‘I’m the Wiz.’”

Marcrina Robinson of Southampton plays Addaperle, the Good Witch of the North. Daniels is on piano and Bonnie Cannon, a village trustee, is coaching and preparing musical arrangements.

Auditions are ongoing for The Tin Man and Cowardly Lion.

To give another taste of the upcoming performance, the cast will perform “Ease on Down the Road” on the Lucia’s Angels Southampton Village Fourth of July Parade float. Pettaway said instead of a yellow brick road, the float will have a pink road — as in road to the cure for breast cancer.

“Favorite Songs From ‘The Wiz’” is Feb. 26 at 3 p.m. at the Rogers Memorial Library in Southampton Village. Register at www.myrml.org or call 631-283-0774 ext. 523.

Ticket sales for the Aug. 11 performance of "The Wiz" at Southampton Intermediate School will start in the coming months.

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