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Tower Theater sets off for Oz in Alluvion Stage Company’s ‘The Wiz’

(Photo by Ryan Anderson)

Before the end of the school year, students from Liberty University’s Department of Theatre Arts will join alumni and professionals as they “ease on down the road” of Oz in the dynamic musical “The Wiz,” opening in the Tower Theater on Friday.

The production is being staged by the Alluvion Stage Company, Liberty’s professional theatre company.

The show is a reimagined take on the familiar “The Wizard of Oz” that infuses African-American culture. The original Broadway production of “The Wiz” won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical, when it debuted in 1972.

As an Alluvion show, Director Andy Geffken was able to reach out to professionals beyond the theatre department, including Grammy-nominated music producer Stanley Brown, who serves as the show’s musical director. Brown has worked with many artists in the gospel, hip-hop, and theatre genres. He was nominated this year for a Grammy for Best Gospel Performance/Song for “God is Good,” which he recorded with Hezekiah Walker, Kierra Sheard, and Karen Clark Sheard.

Thanks to the Broadway cast album and the 1978 movie starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson, Brown said the score has been the soundtrack to many childhoods and the story has inspired multiple generations.

Musical director Stanley Brown speaks to cast members of ‘The Wiz’ at a rehearsal (Photo by Matt Owen)

“It’s indeed an honor to participate in a play that I’ve watched all my childhood,” he said. “I (grew) up with that soundtrack and really (understood) what the story is really about. It’s not just the show itself, it’s the message and meaning of the show, which is loving people, and celebrating that. We also get a chance to share culture, and I think that’s important. We are at the head of something that could be life changing in so many ways.”

He said his challenge was stay true to the iconic music while making sure it resonates with the performers and audience in a new way.

“It’s not always about what people hear, it’s about what they feel,” Brown said, “so I’ve been asking, ‘How do we add the feeling to this composition, this masterpiece?’ Because I believe what comes from the heart reaches the heart, and my job now is to figure out how to pull and bring the heart into the production. At the end of the day, you want people to leave the (theater) feeling better than when they came.”

In addition to cast members, Brown’s musical direction will incorporate members of LU Praise as pit singers.

Brown said he has seen the students excel in both work and play as they rehearse, all with the connected passion for a product that glorifies God.

“I can see that they enjoy what they do,” he said. “I want them to enjoy it and be the best in that moment, and always honor the occasion or grace the occasion. You grace the occasion by being prepared, and what I’m seeing in the students is that they take the work seriously and they’re having a great time. I think preparation is key, but there’s also a God factor (of allowing God to use them), and that is what Liberty is about.”

Scenic designer Harlan Penn, who has designed for off-Broadway and regional theatre and also worked in film and television, has been brought on to design the different onstage worlds, from Kansas to Oz.

“In my time of directing shows here, it’s been important to me to find partnerships within the university because I think it’s a great way for the university to use the resources we have,” Geffken said. “Part of what makes Alluvion valuable is that we can provide unique opportunities for productions that we otherwise can’t as an academic department.”

Joel Ashur (’14) will be returning to campus to play the eponymous Wiz as an alumnus of Liberty’s theatre program who has found a career in both stage and screen acting. In addition to doing theatre work in Washington, D.C., Ashur played the leading role of Samson in a Sight & Sound production.

“We knew Joel, and we knew what he was capable of not only is his caliber of talent but also who he is as an individual, and it was one of those things that made a lot of sense,” Geffken said.

There is a total of 90 in the cast, crew, and orchestra, with four students as the leads: junior Trinity Wood (Dorothy), senior Josh Thomas (Scarecrow), senior Armon Davis (Tin Man), and sophomore Justin Jackson (Lion).

(Photo by Ryan Anderson)

“The singing, the dancing, the acting, it’s all going to be on display and celebrated,” Geffken said. “They are so talented and are primed to be showcased through this show. Honestly, I can’t wait for people to see these four onstage.”

Wood said the opportunity to play Dorothy is a humbling experience she never expected.

“It feels like the culmination of my time here, of what I’ve learned and how I’ve grown, but also my (dreams) as a kid of loving the stage,” she said. “Being able to represent the human experience on stage and pour into my cast mates, pour into the crew that I get to work with, I’ve just always had a love for that experience. It’s a celebration; it’s worship. And I think that’s something that we’ve been really trying to keep in our mind’s eye and our vision (for this show).”

The joyous spirit of the show will be a fitting sendoff to the semester and academic year.

“When you’re doing an Alluvion production at the end of the year, it’s unique and a lot to do, but it’s often very exciting,” Geffken said. “Going into the summer, we always want a big and fun musical. ‘The Wiz’ is something we’ve never done, and it is a bit outside of the normal offerings we do here, but that’s what makes it special. The sound and the choreography being different is pretty exciting, and I think our audiences have actually been eager for some variety in this way.”


To purchase tickets for “The Wiz,” visit the box office website.



  • April 19, 20, 25, 26, 27, May 2, 3*, 4 – 7:30 p.m.
  • April 20, 27, May 4 – 2 p.m.
  • April 21, 28**, May 5 (**ASL-interpreted performance) – 3 p.m.





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