Stage Notes — Miller South students in ‘Oz Mania’

By Kerry Clawson
Beacon Journal staff writer

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Dancer Kiarra Anderson performs as Miller South School for the Visual and Performing Arts vocal students rehearse for the school's Oz Mania. (Michael Chritton/Akron Beacon Journal)

Miller South vocalists invite guests to join them in that magical place Over the Rainbow tonight and Friday night for “Oz Mania,’’ the arts school’s annual Big Show at the Akron Civic Theatre.

The singing extravaganza, which will feature 180 students from the arts school’s vocal program, will include 28 tunes from the celebrated musicals The Wizard of Oz, The Wiz and Wicked at 7 each night.

Threaded throughout the musical revue will be Gracie Thanasiu and Serrin Scrutchings portraying Dorothy, Jono Sommer as the Lion, Antonia Bruno and Kate Klika as Glinda, Charles Tyler as the Scarecrow and Gerard Berroteran as the Tin Man. Other singer/actors in solos or other combinations will be Annmarie Pace and Reyna Moran as Evillene in The Wiz; Teddy Mansfield as the Wizard; Charlie Gruhler as Fiyero; and Sabrina Reed, Ayaka Coffman and Morgan Isabella each taking a turn as Elphaba from Wicked.

Director Nathaniel Duvuvuei said he has spent about 200 hours arranging the music for The Wiz and doing orchestrations for Wicked tunes to tailor the music to the Miller South show. “Oz Mania” will have a 12-piece orchestra composed of local professionals.

His goal was to create a musical feel with a pit somewhere between a traditional, full orchestra one would hear in The Wizard of Oz and the heavy synthesizer of Wicked. Live strings, rather than synthesized sounds, will be heard in Wicked for the Miller South show.

“This is a very well-rounded theme. It has lots of different styles of music,’’ Duvuvuei said. “I really wanted to tighten in on the theme.’’

That includes the symphonic-style music in The Wizard of Oz (using the Pete Schmutte arrangement), the gospel, blues and R&B pop styles of the late ’70s in The Wiz, and the contemporary sounds and changing meters of Stephen Schwartz’s blockbuster Wicked.

The school’s students, grades fourth to eighth, rarely get an opportunity to sing in true gospel style, Duvuvuei said. Material from all three of the musicals is generating excitement.

Wicked has become a sort of household name with most of these kids,” the director said. “With Wicked, the music actually fits the text. Knowing Stephen Schwartz, he’s very tied to the lyrics and how they work with this music.”

Fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students will dress as Munchkins, and other singers will represent citizens of Oz. The set will consist of a backdrop with projections to augment multiple moods in the music. The show also will showcase some dance specials and tumbling skills of multiple performers.

Choreography has been created by Marissa Montigney, Amy Heffernan and Carey Sommer.

For ticket information, call 330-253-2488 or see

Other happenings

• Check out an additional Miller South musical concert from 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, when 50 fourth- through eighth-grade students in the piano department present their year-end Monster Piano Recital. The theme of this year’s concert is the Sound of Music and will showcase the beloved musical score by Rodgers and Hammerstein. The concert is free and open to the public.

• Neos Dance Theatre will present Symbiosis II, an evening of work created by female choreographers at 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday at the University of Akron’s Paul A. Daum Theatre, Kolbe Hall, 328 E. Buchtel Ave. A post-show panel discussion will be held on Friday, including participants via Twitter who have seen the show streamed live at local Akron schools.

Presale tickets are $20, $13 for students and senior citizens. Tickets at the door are $25, $17 for students and senior citizens.

Symbiosis II is a collaboration among dancers, choreographers, students, live streaming video and audience communication. The performance will feature the world premiere of guest choreographer Penny Saunders’ work as well as a piece by Neos resident choreographer Mary-Elizabeth Fenn.

Saunders, who formerly choreographed for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, created a new work for Neos and students from the University of Akron Dance Institute through the support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the University of Akron.

For tickets, see www.neos

• The Akron Symphony Chorus, led by Maria Sensi Sellner, will perform its spring concert at 3 p.m. Sunday at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Akron. The chorus will perform music of Bruckner, Rachmaninoff, Vaughan Williams, Galbraith and Bach, accompanied by the Akron Symphony Orchestra.

Cost is $15, $7.50 for students. Call 330-535-8131 for more information.

Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or

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