Watermark on the Fringe: “El Wiz”

By : Danny Garcia
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A true love letter to Puerto Rico, her people and her culture. This retelling of the classic “Wizard of Oz” is set in modern day Puerto Rico, but instead of our story’s hero Dorothy getting swept up in a tornado, she’s whisked away during Hurricane Maria which devastated the island this past fall.

Touting a very large cast with vocal performances that are quite strong, “El Wiz” blends Latin music, hip-hop and even traditional Afro-Puerto Rican Bomba music – we’re taken on Dorothy’s journey from start to finish in whimsical and family friendly ways. The characters in “El Wiz” are given a modern upgrade and all the incredibly talented performers fit the roles perfectly.

The Scarecrow is living with Asperger Syndrome, the Lion (or more specifically, León) has a drinking problem and is self-medicating because he’s a coward and the Tinman — beautifully played by Erick Perafan — is a brokenhearted gay character who struggles to love again. Perafan’s musical number “Stay With Me” is incredible.

Adapted and directed by Paul Castaneda, and with music and lyrics by Juan Cantu, the story is predominantly told in English although it does have a healthy dose of Spanglish as well.

Lacking any special effects and big set pieces, the storytelling is playfully sold on pure talent and a good adaptation of a beloved story. As an adult I loved it and I have a feeling the young, and young at heart, will too.

“El Wiz” plays in the Orange Venue through May 27. For more information visit OrlandoFringe.org.

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