'The Voice' finalist to lead New Bedford Festival Theatre's 'The Wiz' in April.

·4 min read

NEW BEDFORD – New Bedford Festival Theatre welcomes NBC’s “The Voice” Kyla Jade and Billboard chart topping gospel artist Lawrence Flowers to lead alongside Jaden Dominique, in the upcoming production of “The Wiz” opening April 27.

“The fact that NBFT is able to bring in these two nationally known singers is beyond exciting to me,” said Wendy Hall, executive producer.

“Both Kyla and Lawrence will raise the level of 'The Wiz' so much, just with their recording experience alone. Audiences will be amazed by not only their voices but their acting, charisma and powerhouse personalities.”

Jade placed third in Season 14

Appearing on Season 14 of “The Voice,” judges Kelly Clarkson and Blake Shelton turned around for Jade while she performed “See Saw” by Aretha Franklin. Jade chose Shelton as her coach. She placed third in the competition.

'The Voice' Kyla Jade will play Addaperle/Evillene in New Bedford Festival Theatre's 'The Wiz.'
'The Voice' Kyla Jade will play Addaperle/Evillene in New Bedford Festival Theatre's 'The Wiz.'

“I was just blown away by her range and power of her voice. She was 'The Voice' in my mind, for sure,” Hall said.

Flowers continues to make waves in the gospel music industry while garnering national recognition. Under the name Lawrence Flowers & Intersession (LFI), they have transformed into a Billboard chart topping national gospel artists with songs such as “More” and “Way.”

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“One of the best parts of my job is finding opportunities to bring top notch talent to the SouthCoast,” Hall added.

Jade will play Addaperele/Evillene while Flowers will portray the Scarecrow, a role made famous by Michael Jackon in the 1978 feature film.

The Wiz is based on L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” with a mix of rock, gospel and soul music. According to Hall, the cultural significance of a Black retelling the story is powerful. Black Americans were able to include their voices within a piece of Americana on their own terms.

“I'm a child of the 70's and grew up listening to ‘The Wiz’ soundtrack,” Hall said. “I've been trying to get ‘The Wiz’ to New Bedford for a few years now but there was a rights embargo. When the rights became available, I responded yes to the email asking if I was still interested in 30 seconds flat.”

Later Hall discovered that the production will be the final “regional professional one” in the country before the Broadway revival of “The Wiz” next spring.

“The enormity of that propels me every day. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for NBFT, New Bedford, and the entire SouthCoast,” Hall added.

Connecting ‘The Wiz’ to New Bedford

In conjunction with this production, NBFT is offering an educational and community outreach program entitled “Believe in Yourself,” inspired by the message that Dorothy sings to Lion, Tin Man, and the Scarecrow at the end of The Wiz, assuring them they’ve had courage, heart, and wisdom all along.

New Bedford Festival Theatre will perform 'The Wiz' April 26 - May 6.
New Bedford Festival Theatre will perform 'The Wiz' April 26 - May 6.

The program’s aim is to help build up these same qualities in our local youth and community, through opportunities such as a student matinee, according to Hall.

This will be the first time NBFT does a school time performance, inviting the sixth-graders of New Bedford and Fairhaven to the Zeiterion to see the full length show and have an opportunity to have a Q & A session with the cast afterwards.

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“This may be the first time seeing a Broadway style musical for some students. I am proud we can give them this opportunity,” Hall said.

Other opportunities will include a chance to learn the a dance routine from “The Wiz” with nationally-renowned director and choreographer Kenny Ingram, a master class opportunities led by cast members, a free performance at a spring AHA night and opportunities for local teenagers and young adults to serve in apprentice and intern positions on the production.

Committed collaborators on this programming are the following New Bedford organizations: YWCA Southeastern MA, The Greater New Bedford Boys & Girls Club, Stage Artistry Studios, 3rd EyE, the Cape Verdean Association, and the New Bedford Public Schools.

Lawrence Flowers will play Scarecrow in New Bedford Festival Theatre's 'The Wiz.'
Lawrence Flowers will play Scarecrow in New Bedford Festival Theatre's 'The Wiz.'

“There's such profound cultural significance to the Black retelling of 'The Wizard of Oz,' especially through the medium of musical theater,” Hall said.

“The Wiz provides the Black community of New Bedford with a show that includes their voices with a piece of Americana (“The Wizard Of Oz”) on their own terms. It also is an opportunity to celebrate our multicultural community.

“That is the power of live theater – the great uniter of us all.”

Standard-Times staff writer Seth Chitwood can be reached at schitwood@s-t.com. Follow him on twitter: @ChitwoodReportsSupport local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Standard-Times today.

This article originally appeared on Standard-Times: NBC's 'The Voice' Kyla Jade to star in NBFT's 'The Wiz' on April 27.