McMahon puts spin on Drama Group’s ‘The Wiz’
The theater bug bit Tyler McMahon at age 9 and he’s spent his 17 years since then involved both on and off the stage.
McMahon, of Kankakee, is directing the Drama Group’s “The Wiz,” which will run May 3-5 in Chicago Heights.
“It’s been my absolute all-time favorite musical for years,” he said while on the way to show rehearsal.
“The movie is what I first was introduced to and I really liked it. As I got older, I got introduced to the stage version and loved that even more.
“That show has always been my No. 1. I’m thrilled that I get to do it and I get to put my own spin and touches on it.
“We’re definitely updating a good portion of it. The feel and look of it is very modern with some fantasy things mixed in.”
That look will include Lion having dreadlocks instead of a mane, Tin Man being more steampunk rather than wearing a fully metal costume, and Scarecrow featuring a lot of pieces sewn together.
“It will be a great show for kids to see,” said McMahon, who directed “Noises Off” for the Drama Group in 2012 and has been acting with the troupe since 2009.
“It’s going to be a great visual show. The costumes are going to look great. We have some fun special effects that are going to happen.
“There’s definitely some surprises as far as some major elements to the story that are now played by people. It’s not written that way in the script.
“You actually have a whole dance sequence of the tornado, and ours is played by a person.”
“The Wiz” also will feature McMahon’s dog Cooper as Toto for a portion of the production.
McMahon said the show being rarely produced might stem from people assuming the original Broadway production was written for an all-black cast.
“I have always been a person that has said you can do ‘The Wiz’ with any race, any people,” he said.
“It was written around 1975; it’s 2013. The story is about accepting who you are, learning who you are as a person and changing your life. That goes across all ages and races.”
In addition to work with the Drama Group, McMahon has done shows in Frankfort and at Governors State University in University Park.
He recently was cast as an understudy in “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” at the Royal George Theatre in Chicago.
“I go on for the first time later in May so I’m excited about that. It’s a great show. I’ve done it twice before, once at the Drama Group, and they’ve reconceived the show,” McMahon said.
He also is taking online classes for an associate degree with hopes to transfer to Illinois State University to earn a degree to teach high school drama.
“I would rather watch a well-scripted television show with real actors than a 16-year-old pregnant girl on MTV” he said, lamenting how reality TV stars are more famous than people who hone their acting craft.
Whether people are on stage, behind the curtain or in the audience, McMahon said it’s important to support community theater shows such as “The Wiz.”
“It’s a wide range of ages and they are all working together, helping and inspiring each other,” he said.
“Hopefully that is something that kind of oozes out, that they see and embrace that.
“Hopefully there are some good people who come see it and are inspired to come see the next show or do a show or come sew (costumes).
“What I love about doing theater is it’s a huge collaborative effort, and the audience is a major part of that.”
Jessi Virtusio blogs about music, movies and much more on Elaborating on Entertainment at blogs.southtownstar.com/entertainment .
The cast of the Drama Group’s production of “The Wiz” includes:
DOROTHY: Kyrie Courter, of Chicago.
LION: Aaron Mitchell Reese, of Chicago.
SCARECROW: Michael Rawls Jr., of Chicago.
TIN MAN: Jo Schaffer, of Flossmoor.
THE WIZARD: Clayton Brown, of Richton Park.
TOTO: Alli Fernandez, of Homewood.
GLINDA: Liane Williams, of Chicago.
EVILLENE: Ursula Carter, of Park Forest.
AUNT EM: Sheena Jackson, of Crete.
ADDAPEARL: Megan Falica-Hoyt, of Dyer, Ind.
TORNADO: Nico Ascension Garcia, of Chicago Heights.
Crew members include:
DIRECTOR: Tyler McMahon, of Kankakee.
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Dana Griffin, of Crete.
MUSIC DIRECTOR: Greg Owens.
CHOREOGRAPHER: Jessica Carpenter, of Chicago, and Christopher Kelley, of Flossmoor.
LIGHTING DESIGN: Jennifer Larkin, of New Lenox.
COSTUMES: Heather Prince, of Flossmoor.
SET CONSTRUCTION: Dave Amacher, of Frankfort.
LIGHTS: Kim Amacher, of Frankfort.