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With a cast filled with the DMV’s own and local legends, and a show built on the premise of “The Wiz” but with a “go-go swing,” DC Black Broadway’s production of “The Giz,” running April 28-30, highlights District talent, reveals the challenges the nation’s capital faces and celebrates the beauty of D.C. culture.
“You’ve got Dorothy, aka ‘Dottie,’ from Hillsborough, North Carolina, who gets swept up and is coming through Washington,” said Dr. Lovail Long, founding president and CEO of DC Black Broadway, who also birthed “The Giz.” “She starts her journey in Prince George’s County, Landover, or Landova,” he joked, “and she goes through Uptown, through Northeast, to Southwest, through Chocolate City, to Southeast. Throughout her travels she meets a lot of characters, and she gets to learn the lingo, the music, and she gets to learn the culture of Washington, D.C. So we touch on a lot of things: gentrification, we touch on drug use, we touch on so many things in this play.”
Rayshun LaMarr, who appeared on season 14 of NBC’s “The Voice,” and is playing The Scarecrow, in “The Giz,” said he has a similar trajectory to the character of Dottie. He moved to D.C. from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, before attending the District’s celebrated Duke Ellington School of the Arts. Having previously performed as The Wiz in another production (among a host of artistic credits across mediums), the multifaceted artist said this production has been didactic in learning more about the nation’s capital.
“If you’re not from D.C., and if you’re not from a certain era, and you don’t really know about the D.C. culture, you’re going to learn. That is one of the things that I have learned and am still learning throughout this show,” he said. “Come to the show, you’re definitely going to get a culture lesson.”
From sparkly red New Balances to the go-go sound, “The Giz,” showcases some of the celebrated aspects of Washington, D.C.
Living the Dream, Making History, Sharing Go-Go with the World
Classically trained vocalist and Duke Ellington alumna Hilary Daniel said bringing the role of Dorothy or “Dottie,” to life is a dream come true.
“I had the opportunity to be an understudy for [Dorothy in another production] so being able to bring it to life, now, as the lead, and being able to incorporate the D.C. culture, it’s honestly been a dream. It’s been very fun getting to know my D.C. legends and these amazing talents that we have here in the city,” Daniel told the Informer in a WIN-TV interview.
Local go-go talents include Prema Smith, creator of Prema’s Voice and formerly of Pure Elegance Band and Dysfunctional Band, and Frank “Scooby,” Marshall of Sirius and Company Band and The Chuck Brown Band, playing the characters of Tin Ma and The Lion, respectively.
“Being a part of Dr. Lovail’s production is such an honor. I walked up to him and [said], ‘Thank you,’ and he [said], ‘You earned this,” explained Smith, who also noted the historicity of the moment, as it coincides with the centennial celebration of the Lincoln Theatre.
“The Lincoln Theatre is our history. I was just talking to my mom and she just [said], ‘That was just one of the [few] theaters us Black people were allowed to go to— that and the Republic. So this is an opportunity where we are making history all over again to be able to bring this to the Lincoln Theatre,” Smith told the Informer.
Marshall emphasized the importance of this production sharing go-go with the masses.
“Being an ambassador to the rest of the world and showing people that go-go can translate to theatre, film and not just the [concert] stage— and helping the music be heard… is really important to me,” Marshall said on WIN-TV. “I always take that seriously, in making sure the music is heard and felt by not just people in D.C., but also represented in a way that we can stand alone amongst our peers in other genres of music.”
‘Ready for Stardom‘
Even with legends in the room, Long, who founded DC Black Broadway in 2018, said the rehearsal process has been productive in preparation for what he promises to be a show audiences won’t want to miss.
“They have the passion… I think everybody has taken the pride of saying, ‘This is a DMV cast and this is for the city,’ so everybody has been on one accord,” he said. “Even the kids from 5, 6 years old, they’re passionate, they’re ready to rehearse, and so I see that the city is ready to take a step.”
The production includes family members such as Marshall and his sister, “The Giz” director Lisa Renee Marshall, and even a mother-daughter dancing duo.
“I have learned that there’s so much talent in the DMV— so much untapped, unchecked, unseen talent in the DMV, and there’s a large majority of them that’s going to be on that stage April 28-30,” Daniel said.
“Our city is ready for stardom,” Long emphasized.