the-wiz_web.jpgWay out in West Broward, surrounded by greenery, an apartment complex and a fitness center, the Miramar Cultural Center (MCC) sits with majestic presence. 

Opened in the beginning of this year, the MCC partners with the Broward Center for the Performing Arts to house the Community Performing Arts Theatre – an 800-seat room with a proscenium stage (one with a stage wall and arch), complete with sunken orchestra pit.
The stage, itself, seems regal in its own right, but when the Performance Project’s Summer Theater Camp put on its version of The Wiz last week, it transformed into a kid scene. 

“The Performance Project gives performance classes, voice lessons, and has a professional theater company,” said camp and artistic director Nina Felice.  The Student Enrichment in the Arts (SEAS) program funded the summer camp/theater company with a grant it (SEAS) received from the Broward County School Board.

Felice has re-worked The Wiz, written by Charlie Smalls, into a series of musical numbers that kids and adults alike can enjoy.  Of course, Felice took some creative licensing and updated some of the dialogue to cater to the parents in the audience; like incorporating our economic times and having the cowardly lion seeing a therapist for his courage problem.  When they come out of the children’s mouths, with their childlike understanding, it’s hilarious. 

The musical numbers included in this production are “The Feeling We Once Had,” “Tornado Ballet,” “He’s the Wiz,” “I Was Born on the Day Before Yesterday,” “Ease on Down the Road,” “Slide Some Oil to Me,” two reprisals of “Ease on Down the Road,”  “Mean Ole Lion,” “Be a Lion,” “So You Wanted to Meet the Wizard,” “No Bad News,” “Brand New Day,” “Believe in Yourself,” and “Home.”

There were two performances last Wednesday, July 29, with two sets of principals of the 40 student theater camp.  There are too many to name, but all of these children are quite talented and have pulled themselves together nicely with just three weeks of rehearsal. 

“This theater camp is great for the kids, because it expands their minds and provides a great outlet for them,” said Felice, a native of Parsippany, New Jersey.  She said she has great rapport with all of her students from – the little tykes to the teenagers.  And the family-like atmosphere has bred a dedication among the teenagers, who help camp teachers with preparing the younger children for their performances while rehearsing for their own shows. 

Felice said she is proud that her camp gives her students something to do during the summer months to keep them active and show them the different aspects of the arts.  In addition to learning theater production, there are dance, music, acting, and production classes.  Older students also get a chance to give back with community service activities, like helping with rehearsals and serving as ushers when performances are given through the Young Professionals Program.

Felice, who holds a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Theater from University of Detroit and a Masters of Arts in Child and Family Psychology from St. Thomas University, defines the typical day of the Young
Professionals Program as four hours assisting young campers and three hours practicing for their own show.  The students also audition for their roles in their respective performances.  This year’s performances included Seussical the Musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and Fiddler on the Roof. 

The theater camp has seen its last performance for the year, but its legacy has left a high note in many lives so far. 

“I didn’t start my company to be a teacher, but it fell into my lap,” said Felice of her students.  “I fell in love with them right away.  Every year is more and more rewarding.”

Photo by Mychal McDonald. In the performance project’s version of The Wiz, Isabella Lopez was Dorothy, Iyanu Corniel was the Lion, Ace Stallings was Tinman and CJ Fam was the Scarecrow.