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Eastmoor Academy’s The Wiz Takes Its Final Bow On-Stage This Weekend

the wiz graphic

February 28, 2024 – Since the casting announcement for Eastmoor Academy’s final performance of “The Wiz,” students aspiring for Broadway have been diligently rehearsing multiple days a week, showcasing their dedication to delivering an unforgettable production. 

What motivates these students to sacrifice so much of their time for one weekend jam-packed with four shows? Well, your applause, of course! Thespotlight shining down on stage louder the applause during the curtain call, the better, so fill the auditorium with thunderous applause by getting your tickets now! 

The Wiz has been a staple musical tradition in Eastmoor Academy’s theater since 1999.

“We wanted to make it our traditional show so everyone who comes to Eastmoor has a chance to either be on the stage for The Wiz or in the audience,” said Eastmoor Academy’s Theatre Director Seth Harms. 

In addition to celebrating a musical tradition, this show will be monumental as Eastmoor will have a Broadway performer and producer in attendance. LaChanze Sapp-Gooding will watch and observe the show to give students valuable feedback and discuss their future opportunities in theater. 

“[LaChanze] is opening doors now that maybe one or two of my students might be able to walk through because of what she's doing,” Harms said. “She'll be able to share some of her pathway, maybe even talk to some of our parents about what it's like to be a stage mom and support.”

Eastmoor Academy is one of five nationwide schools awarded a $10,000 grant for the 2023-24 Pathway program, an initiative fostering racial equity through school theater. The Educational Theatre Foundation says late producer Craig Zadan inspired the Pathway program.

The show’s opening day is on the last day of Black History Month, and the grant “aims to create opportunities for students in communities of color to work with industry professionals while performing works that address issues of diversity and racial equity.”

As part of the grant, schools must hire at least two professionals of color who will serve as mentors to students during their productions and help them build their professional network; one was LaChanze. The grant also provided Eastmoor with a new digital soundboard, and Bloom Audio gave six students and two staff members a two-day lesson on how to use the high-tech equipment. In addition, part of the grant provided the rights and royalties to The Wiz – which was just under $3,000. 

When asked what the audience should expect if they’ve never seen Eastmoor Academy’s version of The Wiz, Harms shared, “They're going to be wowed from the very first dance number of the tornado.”

In addition to fabulous dancers, Harms believes the vocal performance is incredible and not something audiences want to miss out on.

“Naiyah Anderson, who's playing Dorothy, her progress vocally in the last three years with this musical has been incredible,” Harms said. “We're pushing Tylen Gordon vocally. [Gordon] was a finalist last year in the CAPA Marquee Awards for his role in Once on This Island. He's got these falsettos that he's able to do now playing The Wiz.”

He also commended the cast on their talent and ability to make the audience believe they are in Oz.

“When [Dorothy] is taken away, we're all taken away in the tornado to the Land of Oz, and it's just like, wow, this journey is going to be great!” Harms said.

However, The Wiz has reached the end of its journey at Eastmoor Academy under the direction of Harms. The production repeats every four years and Harms is sad to announce that this will be his last, as he plans to retire in two years. While bittersweet to see the curtain close on The Wiz on March 3, he is thankful for his time at Eastmoor Academy and will always share a special connection to The Wiz.

"I changed the blocking of a [Dorothy's goodbye] scene because it just wasn't quite working for me," Harms said. "I wanted [a character] to take a moment because they may not see Dorothy again. And that just hit me today. Maybe that was my way of saying goodbye to the show and goodbye to Dorothy."

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