Youths close Germantown performing-arts summer camp with 'The Wiz N Da Hood' musical
Audience members collectively waved their hands in the air and clapped along in time at the John B. Kelly Elementary School's auditorium on Saturday night.
There, Camp Kama-Sahlor for the Performing Arts hosted a performance of "The Wiz N' Da Hood," an imaginative retelling of the classic L. Frank Baum children's tale.
The performance and performers
In a series of dramatic scenes incorporating elements of modern and hip-hop dance, Dorothea — portrayed by Jasmine Joseph, 14, from Kensington High School for Creative and Performing Arts — enlisted the assistance of a motley group of companions on her way to find "The Wiz."
Instead of the usual Cowardly Lion, Tin Man and Scarecrow, The Wiz N' Da Hood featured "Snoop Doggone" (Justin Booker, 14, Northeast High), "Mechanicman" (Jamir Smith, 14, Girard Academic Music Program) and "Candyman" (Lucky Tasco, 15, Abington Senior High).
Along the way, the fellow travelers must resist the malicious designs of Evilyn (Miquel Moon, a 14-year-old who will soon attend Kensington CAPA).
Playing a drag version of the Wicked Witch of the West, Moon's portrayal of Evilyn added a dose of zany comic energy to the show. It also brought out the best in this cohort of young Philadelphia players.
Behind the scenes
Rashaun "Nerd" Williams, a member of the "Special Effects" dance crew, choreographed the musical.
Through the Philadelphia School District's Eat Right Now program and the community organization "Rapping About Prevention," Williams became involved with the project because of its focus on nutrition and wellness.
As Dorothea and her companions overcome obstacles on the road to find The Wiz, they also learn that together with one's friends, it is possible to make healthy choices.
In the background
The Kama-Sahlor Group, a collective of local artists and arts educators, formed in 2009 and began offering after-school programs four years ago.
The six-week program, which ended this weekend, is its second year. Twenty-five participants ranged in age from 5 to 17.
With the assistance of the Philadelphia Culture Fund, the Camp Kama-Sahlor after-school program previously mounted a production of "The Lion King" in June.
Lisa Hopkins, aka Sister Lisa, wrote, directed and produced "The Wiz N' Da Hood." She explained that the show's focus on nutrition meshes with Kama-Sahlor's purpose.
"We believe that art can save lives," she said, "especially those of children living in neighborhoods where they are surrounded by violence every day and have no way to freely express themselves."