L. Frank Baum never looked so slick as when his story eased on down the yellow brick road to stylish soul music, rock beats and gospel anthems. The Wiz has been surprising musical theater audiences since its Broadway debut in 1975. During its run, the Wiz won seven Tony awards, including Best Musical, and five Drama Desk awards.
As part of the summer segment of its 2014–2015 season, Red Mountain Theatre Company presents an all-Birmingham, all-African American cast in the cult-classic Wizard of Oz adaptation under the direction of Broadway star Rufus Bonds Jr.
“I look at Dorothy, and I look at her desire to be loved and to believe that she’s loved,” Bonds said in a press release. “I want to tell the story that love is always there, and it’s about you being able to accept it and recognize it on your journey. That’s what it’s all about — the journey, and the gift of love, of home, and family.”
Bonds will be returning to Red Mountain Theatre Company toting a hefty directing and acting resume. His directing credits include The Wizard of Oz and Into the Woods at the Victoria Theatre, and he has starred in Broadway productions of Rent, Once on This Island and Parade. Bonds has received a Drama Desk nomination, an Ovation Award and an NAACP Best Actor Award for his performance in The Color Purple.
Abijah Cunningham, a local singer and actress, will tread the boards in the iconic role of Dorothy. Cunningham’s performance experience includes singing in gospel choirs and ensembles at her church Mt. Canaan Full Gospel, Stillman College Tour Choir and Gospel Workshop of America (GMWA). The Hueytown native was a featured soloist for Birmingham Empowerment’s “Moving 50 Years Forward,” cast as Lorrell Robinson in a production of Dreamgirls, performed as the Narrartor in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Church Lady in the Color Purple and ensemble member in RMTC’s Les Miserables and Beehive.
“I can’t wait to hear her blow this show out of the water,” said Keith Cromwell, executive director of Red Mountain Theatre Company. “It’s all vocal gymnastics—basically, the whole show. It’s so powerful, number after number.”
The Wiz draws inspiration from the history, music and culture of African Americans and intertwines Baum’s message of finding a home, love and acceptance that audiences can relate to.
“Unquestionably, the humor and the heartbeat of the piece remain African-American at their source, but the overall effect is pluralistic and inclusive,” Variety wrote in a review. “In the truest and most positive sense of the phrase, [the] show is color-blind.”
Red Mountain Theatre Company’s production of The Wiz, opens Friday, May 15 and runs through May 31. Tickets start at $30. For more information, visit redmountaintheatre.org.
FRIDAY, MAY 15
A Choreographer’s Showcase — Dorothy Jemison Day Theater. 800 19th St. N. AROVA Contemporary Ballet presents A Choreographer’s Showcase, dance works performed by AROVA ballet dancers and created by new choreographers from around the U.S. Audience members will be able to nominate their favorite choreographer, who will be offered a contract with AROVA and set a new original work for spring 2016. May 15–17, Friday and Saturday 7:30 p.m. and Sunday 2:30 p.m. $20. For more information, call (912) 658-1725.
Divine Music Indian Concert — Birmingham Museum of Art. 2000 Rev. Abraham Woods Jr. Blvd. The Birmingham Museum of Art and the Indian Cultural Society offer a concert of Divine Music by international performers Pt. Bhimanna Yadav, Pt. Subhen Chatterjee and Pt. Indradeep Ghosh. 5–6 p.m. Free. For more information, visit artsbma.org.
SATURDAY, MAY 16
Do Dah Day — Caldwell and Rhodes parks. Highland Avenue South. Do Dah Day, initiated in 1979, began as a party among friends and has since grown into a daylong, philanthropic festival. The event raised $1.3 million since 1992 for Jefferson County animal shelters and consists of a sizeable list of activities ranging from the iconic Do Dah Day parade to the crowning of pet king and queen. Local bands (Good Old War, The Heavy Hearts and Kick the Robot among them) will also be highlighted during the festival. 11:01 a.m. Free. For more information, visit dodahday.org.
Opera Competition Semifinals — Hulsey Rehearsal Hall. 950 13th St. S. Young Opera Birmingham hopefuls step into the spotlight for a chance to win $10,000 in prizes and a starring role in an Opera Birmingham production. Selected judges will weigh in on the talent of 20 performers and decide who will advance to the final round of competition. 10:30 a.m.–3 p.m. $25. For more information, visit operabirmingham.org.
Forum: A Choreography Salon — Children’s Dance Foundation. 1715 27th Court S, Homewood. Sanspointe Dance Company strives to create impactful art by moderating their innovative modern dance performances to open channels for audience-artist discussion. The company’s production of FORUM will follow Sanspointe’s tradition of furthering the culture, message and passion of modern dance, and feature choreography from Anna Foshee, Catherine Graham, David Ryan Jacobs, Stella Nystrom and Amile Wilson. 7–9 p.m. Free. For more information, visit sanspointe.org.
Wonder Women: Stories About Mom — Avon Theater. 2829 Seventh Ave. S. Just in time for a belated Mother’s Day tribute, Arc Light Stories brings another installment of live storytelling performance. This month, mom is the subject and Arc Light has once again enlisted novice and more experienced storytellers to share their personal accounts with the public. 7:30 p.m. $5 in advance; $10 at the door. For more information, visit arclightstories.com.
SUNDAY, MAY 17
Beyond the Bridge: Civil Rights and Law Enforcement Conference — Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. 520 16th St N. In 2006, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Birmingham division, have brought the community and local law enforcement officials training modules to promote knowledge, conversation and respect between officers and the people they serve. A tour of the BCRI collections and a reception will precede the conference on Sunday. Free. Sunday: tour and reception, 4:30 p.m.; program, 6 p.m. Monday: registration, 8 a.m.; program, 8:30 a.m.–3 p.m. For more information and to register online, visit bcri.org.
Cathedral Church in Concert — Cathedral Church of the Advent. 2017 Sixth Avenue N. The Cathedral Church of the Advent choir will present the music of Birmingham composer K. Lee Scott. Scott’s 300 published compositions include anthems, hymns, pieces for solo voice, brass and organ. Frederick Teardo will conduct with Charles Kennedy on organ. 3 p.m. For more information, visit adventbirmingham.org.
Tribes — Birmingham Festival Theater. 1901 11th Ave. S. Opening Thursday May 28 at the Birmingham Festival Theater, Nina Raine’s award-winning Tribes is a play about families — the tribes we are born into and the tribes we fit in with. For Billy, a young man born with deafness into a hearing family that never bothered to teach him sign language, the possibility of a new tribe is a foreign idea. Until he meets Sylvia, a young woman born to deaf parents who is in the process of losing her hearing as well. Thursday–Saturday 8 p.m., and Sunday June 7, 2 p.m. Through June 13. $20. For more information, visit bftonline.org.
Becoming Dr. Ruth: An Unexpected Journey — Terrific New Theatre. 2821 Second Ave. S. Karola Siegel was a child when she fled the Nazis in the Kindertransport. She was a scout and sniper for the Haganah in Jerusalem and then struggled as a single mother in America before taking on perhaps the most unlikely career: a television network sex therapist. The Terrific New Theatre brings Mark St. Germain’s play to life in this honest and humorous production about the real life of Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer. Thursday–Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sundays 2:30 p.m. $25. For more information, visit terrificnewtheatre.com.