The Louisville Ballet, Actor’s Theater, Stage One Family Theater, the Kentucky Opera and the Louisville Orchestra make Louisville one of 12 cities in the country that has five major professional arts in residence. And performance venues like the Kentucky Center for the Arts, the Brown Theater, and The Louisville Palace keep the Louisville arts community alive and well.
And this summer, the city’s newest theater troupe will debut with a timeless classic. The Youth Repertory Theater Troupe of Louisville will present “The Wiz” as the first performance in the Grand Lyric Theater at Old Walnut Street.
This new performance group is the brainchild of Erica Denise Bledsaw, Coordinator of Fine Arts at the Louisville Central Community Center and CEO of Erica Denise Entertainment. During the school year, LCCC offers after school childcare and enrichment where students can get homework help and participate in visual and performing arts.
“The Youth Repertory Theater Troupe of Louisville came about after we did a performance [with the after school participants] during the holidays called ‘Broadway Santa.’ It was all about the youth. The youth did everything from the sets, to the lights and the sound, and to the acting and the singing on stage,” Erica shared. “That was really successful.”
That success encouraged the arts and entertainment entrepreneur to find a way to provide continual performance and behind the scenes arts experiences for local youth. “The Wiz Performing Arts Camp is an 8-week camp where half the day they are having extensive musical theater training, […] everything that makes the magic of musical theater happen, the youth are learning that. And the other half of the day they are actually rehearsing for The Wiz.”
This is no everyday summer camp. And this will not be your average “cute kid show.” Amaya Brockington, who will play The Cowardly Lion, has read the book, watched the movie and saw the stage play in the process of preparing for her role. She is embracing the back-story and “why the lion is the way he is,” in order to bring her character to life. As a female playing a traditionally male role, she wants to be authentic in her delivery.
The cast is working very hard and they are ready to go. Central High School Senior Tracy Scott, who will play the Scarecrow, really wants the community to support the show and acknowledge the work the youth are putting into it. “People should come support The Wiz because we are young youth trying to do something positive. Trying to do something in the summertime that’ll keep us away from trouble. And also keep us learning, keep our minds going and wondering and hungry for something new every day.”
The five-show run begins at the end of July and is full of Louisville’s best up and coming talent. Leading the cast is 12-year-old Najiya “Piggy” Clayborn, whose powerhouse belting voice landed her the role of Dorothy. “I’m always going to be Jason Clayborn’s daughter, but I also want to be, ‘Hey, that’s Najiya Clayborn! She’s a powerful singer.’ I want to inspire people.”
You will definitely be inspired by this talented cast filled with the next generation of great Louisville performers including YPAS Junior Chase Dean as the Tin Man, Western Performing Arts School’s Jurni Woodson as The Wiz and Ajunique Dillard as Evilene, and Mariah Martin, daughter of local gospel singer Joy Thompson, as Glinda.
These performers are ready to show what they can do on stage. When asked how he would make the role his own in comparison to legendary performers like Nipsey Russell and Ne-Yo, Chase responded, “By being me.” The next Bryson Tiller or Linkin’ Bridge could very well be in this cast. Don’t take my word for it. Follow Erica on Facebook and catch the live videos she streams from rehearsals.
Not only is the onstage talent phenomenal, the production and support team is also star-studded. Singer Gayle King is the musical director, Tim French of Tim French Music is the assistant musical director, and Designer Zach Lindsey, of Project Runway Junior, is the costume designer and lead costume maker.
THE WIZ FIVE SHOW RUN
Friday, July 29th at 11 AM and 7 PM
Saturday, July 30th at 7 PM
Friday, August 5th at 7 PM
Saturday, August 6th at 7 PM