There’s really no grand cultural reason for the Broadway-bound revival of The Wiz (through Feb. 11 at Golden Gate Theatre, Sf) to exist—outside the too-long-in-coming rise of powerful Black industry producers and creatives, perhaps—but it’s lovely that it does.
The incredible talent onstage is reason enough, even if, overall, the parts sometimes squeak like the Tin Man’s joints, as the production struggles to keep up with the story’s machinations. The orchestra is a tad under-powered, the transitions are often awkward, the choreography sometimes falls flat, favorite scenes literally whiz by, and Toto is completely MIA. (Plus, we lose one of the gayest scenes in history.) Yet a stage full of Black faces and Black cultural references is powerful, even in this day and age, and even if those references don’t extend much past the 1980s.
And the singing! Nichelle Lewis absolutely nails it as Dorothy, slipping into the legendary silver booties of the great Stephanie Mills when she belts show-stopper “Home”—although as an orphaned girl shipped to Kansas from the Big City and bullied by classmates to tears in a too-short opening scene, one wonders why she would want to go back in the first place. The original 1975 play and subsequent 1978 movie—heck, the original Wizard of Oz itself—are long, and eventful, and crammed full of maybe too many songs, so a little excision is a good thing. The score has been made a bit churchier, and Black culture has been more subtly encoded in gestures and expressions, rather than the outright funkiness which the movie, especially, emphasized. (Hard not to do when you have freaking Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow, here given a sweet, homey spin by Avery Wilson).
Those gestures flew over much of the mostly white audience’s head—this is San Francisco, of course—but my friends in the audience appreciated them. And we get enough fabulous diva moments (Melody A. Betts as wicked witch Evillene/Auntie Em truly does blow the house down) to help overlook the dated breakdancing references and sappy dialog. The sets are dazzling, and the cast is game. The whole thing might not transport you to Emerald City, but it does provide a pleasant evening’s entertainment. And anything that gives these phenomenal performers a platform is very fine, indeed.
MORE EVENTS OF NOTE
FRI/2-SUN/4: mouf/full A queer explosion of Black theater, dance, and other performance themed on Black religious expression throughout the diaspora, taking place in Grace Cathedral. The OYSTERKNIFE company teams up with CounterPulse for this large-scale, site specific, three-day extravaganza. Grace Cathedral, SF. More info here.
FRI/2: ROYALES: A BLACK HISTORY MONTH DRAG KING SHOW Time for Black kings (and queens, and everyone else) to shine! Qozmo, Pete-O Daguyo, Mr. Stelio Gurl, Bettyie Jayne, and 2022 Mr. SF Drag King Helixir Jynder-Byntwel leave it all onstage for you. 8pm, Mars Bar, SF. More info here.
FRI/2: ABOUT LAST NIGHT Well, who doesn’t want to humiliate themselves for laughs during Valentine’s season, telling stories of their most memorable, and unmemorable, flings? “Join us for an evening filled to the brim with humor,. sex positivity and of course hilariously true one night stand stories. A handful of very brave souls will once again climb on our infamous stage to share true tales of their most intimate and embarrassing sexual adventures.” 7pm-10pm, Make-Out Room, SF. More info here.
FRI/2 + SAT/3: UNDERGROUND JAZZ CABARET WITH DANNY GLOVER The lauded local actor celebrates Black History Month with a celebration of 50 years of jazz from luminaries Idris Ackamoor and The Pyramids, playing selections from their latest release Afro Futuristic Dreams. The Lab, SF. More info here.
FRI/2: VALENTINE’S GAY Love is love and punk is awesome. Since 2020, Oakland queer punk supergroup Middle-Aged Queers has hosted this February all-ages queer punk extravaganza at 924 Gilman Street, to celebrate the legacy and continuous participation of LGBTQ+ musicians in the punk scene. You need to see them live!! MAQ will be joined by Trap Girl from Los Angeles, Austin Lucas from Bloomington, Indiana, and fellow Bay Area queer rockers Tits on a Bull, which has the best name ever. 7pm, 924 Gilman, Berkeley. More info here.
SAT/2: KAFANA BALKAN The fantastic brass-driven, foot-stomping, wild-twirling, kigh-kickin’ party celebrating Balkan and Romany music and culture is back for its 17th anniversary. Obviously, I adore it. Catch the bombastic Balkan Brass with incredible clarinetist Ismail Lumanovski and Inspector Gadje, bellydancing by Jill Parker (so good!!), and the always terrific DJ Željko. 9pm-2am, Rickshaw Stop, SF. More info here.
SAT/3: parallax errors OPENING Artist and 48 Hills art critic tamara suarez porras has a new show that documents their changing vision, and looks incredible, opening alongside others by Sholeh Asgary, Shao-Feng Hsu, and Tricia Rainwater. “Fragmented photographic images in this series depict what is seen when your brain fails to reliably interpret visual information from two eyes as a single image. Once suarez porras acknowledged this aura—’a ghosting’ that is neither quite double vision nor quite focused—it could not be ignored.” Opening 2-5pm, show runs through February, California Institute of Integral Studies, SF. More info here.
SUN/4: ASIAN ART MUSEUM FREE DAY You know what time it is—time to immerse yourself in the glorious collection of the Asian Art Museum, for free! See 18,000 objects that represent 6000 years of Asian art and culture. 10am-5pm, Asian Art Museum, SF. More info here.
SUN/4: TONGUES UNTIED Marlon Riggs’ groundbreaking work letting queer Black men speak during the height of the AIDS crisis still astonishes. Frameline Film Fest has partnered with the Oakland LGBTQ Community Center to honor Black History Month and National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day with this free screening. Go! Noon-2pm, Grand Lake Theatre, Oakland. More info here.
MON/5: DARK ALLEYS Goth music and bowling—they’re an unlikely pairing (perhaps), but this party should melt even the darkest hearts. DJs Tom Axe, Zlaya, Polly Eurethane, and Starr Noir set an eerie mood at the always awesome Mission Bowling Club. Every first Monday, 6pm, Mission Bowling Club, SF. More info here.
TUE/6: AN EVENING WITH THE BOB DYLAN CENTER & CHUCK PROPHET I still have yet to “get” Bob Dylan—something to look forward to in my creeping senescence!—but if anyone can hook me, it’s my former music journalism mentor Steve Jenkins, now head of Oklahoma’s Bob Dylan Center. Yep, he loved Bob so much he moved to Oklahoma. That is devotion. Jenkins will be joined by musician Chuck Prohet at the Roxie for a screening of a dozen short film and video clips featuring Dylan on stage and in the studio, followed by a lively conversation. 7pm, Roxie Theatre, SF. More info here.
THU/8: LOVE BITES Sink your teeth into small bites from dozens of restaurants, and enjoy wines from Napa Valley, a chocolate spin-art booth from Recchiuti, salsa performances, and a photobooth with love dog Brixon at the Ferry Building. 5pm-7:30pm, Ferry Building, SF. More info here.