This week, Intermedia Arts is getting funkified with a deconstructed dance/music re-imagining of the '70s musical The Wiz. The show, titled The Whiz: Moneyapolis, is presented by Northrop Dance, Bedlam Theatre, and Intermedia Arts.
Created by New York City-based choreographer Nick Leichter, with a score
composed by the "Messiah of Funk" Monstah Black, the show also features
several local artists, including Shannon Blowtorch, Cee Cee Russell,
Leah Nelson, Mad King Thomas, and the Real Hauswives of Hennepin County.
Leichter says that one of the reasons that he created The Whiz is that he wanted to try something different from traditional dance concerts. Funding support for such productions was dwindling, and he found the format limiting. "The model doesn't work any more," he says. "I wanted to make productions. I'm expanding. I'm getting rid of labels. I'm interested in directing, producing, and making things." However, he notes that his current production is not commercial. "It's still experimental," he says.
Leichter saw working with Black as a way to broaden the potential of what he could do as a dance artist. In the show, the collaborators have taken things like singing, rapping, fashion, runway, drag, cabaret, and burlesque, and made all those elements flow in the way that dance flows. "I wanted to have a show that took you on that kind of artistic journey," he states.
The Whiz isn't a remake of 1978's The Wiz starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson; it doesn't have a narrative. In this show, Black appears as a Master of Ceremonies of sorts. At times, the performers may use some emotional characteristic, but there are no characters, according to Monstah Black. "There are moments where there are elements of me being a sad tin man, but I'm not a tin man," he says.
The music and the storyline are deconstructed, but there are also elements of the original story-- both from The Wiz and also the original novel and MGM movie. Hopes, dreams, fears, tolerance, acceptance, the need for leadership, and the drive for survival are all themes the production tackles.
In creating the piece, Leichter would choreograph to the original Wiz score, while Black worked on the music, often making radical interpretations. The collaborators would then bring those elements together, and find a balance. "That's where it's post modern," Leichter says. "You combine A and put B with it, then take a Z and add it to the mix. There's something in the middle that's unique. It's very Cage and Cunningham."
Essentially, the message of the show is to live and let live, says Black, "and also to just not hold back creative expression and acceptance. In the world today, there's so much hatred and so much fear, but there is still a lot of love--if we could just have more of that."
The Whiz premiered at Joe's Pub in New York, and each time the production tours to a new city, local performers are featured and worked into the show. The Minneapolis version features a pre-show by Bedlam's Club OZ. DJ Shannon Blowtorch will be spinning after the show, in addition to numerous local performers featured in the production.
Performances are 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday at Intermedia Arts. Tickers are $27.