Dance, directing show strengths, weaknesses
I give the choreographers and directors of the two shows equal marks. The Wiz choreographer Liane Williams had to create dances of several different styles to suit the many different characters. Consequently, her dances are more interesting than the more homogeneous ones created by pantomime choreographers Patrick Earle and George Howard. On the other hand, their dances fit the pantomime performers perfectly and because of the bright lights and lovely costumes. The dances, on a whole, give more pleasure than those of The Wiz.
Damion Radcliffe, who directs The Wiz, and Bobby Clarke, who directs The Upsies and de Downzies Dem, have moments of excellence and others when the action drags. While the stories of both productions are uninspired, there are compensations.
The most important characters in The Wiz, played by Thompson, Bailey, Gooden, Greaves, Samuels, Brown as well as Jada Ferguson and Condison (both good witches), are young people with great talent who pour vitality into even pedestrian lines. The acting by the pantomime's principals - including the juvenile female lead, Antoinette Perkins (as Maya) - is as good as I have seen.
Some surprise moments give a lift to the pantomime, among them the car driving around the stage or a helicopter landing in front of the mansion and people and lots of luggage being unloaded.
There are clever bits of comedy involving a sparkling newcomer to the pantomime, Jahmali Rhoden. In one, he tries to squeeze into the already occupied two-seater car. In another, he chats up the girls in the audience and, in the third, he gets caught as he sprawls out on the Upsies' red sofa. pretending to be the man of the house.
Sunday's audience laughed so much that at the end of the show the playwright went on stage to thank them and make a plug for the upkeep of Jamaican heritage, one of her favourite pantomime topics.