Hickory – The eight actors playing major roles in the Hickory Community Theatre’s upcoming production of “The Wiz,” include a mix of HCT “veterans” and newcomers to the Hickory stage.
Nauria Mitchell, who’s playing Dorothy, is a Hickory native and a student at Jacobs Fork Middle School. She is new to HCT but not to performing. Mitchell’s previous roles include Mrs. Gloop in “Willy Wonka, Jr.” with the Carolina Broadway Theatre Company and two roles in a school production of “Flat Stanley.” She also sings in the choir at Mt. Zion Baptist Church.
The first of Dorothy’s companions on the journey to Oz is the Scarecrow, played by Naomi Segers, in her first major role at the Theatre. Her first appearance was in the ensemble of “Young Frankenstein.” Segers is a student at Lenoir-Rhyne University where she is a member of the Playmakers and she speaks fluent Japanese.
Then comes R.J. Christian, as the Tin Man. He is a resident of Boone and a senior at Watauga High School. He’s played three other iconic roles, Triton in “The Little Mermaid” and Donkey in “Shrek” for Boone’s Beanstalk Community Theatre, as well as Bert in a school production of “Mary Poppins.” His other school activities include honors chorus and marching band.
Playing the third of Dorothy’s companions, the Cowardly Lion, is a very familiar face to HCT audiences, Donovan Harper. Now in his fourth season here, Harper was on stage three times in the past season, as Watson in “The Watson Intelligence” and in the six person ensemble of “Ain’t Misbehavin’ and the Minstrel in “Incorruptible.” A graduate of Hibriten high school, originally from Washington, DC, he works in mental health for The Arc of NC.
Watching over Dorothy are not one but two good witches, Glinda the Good Witch of the South, played by Niyesha Green and Addaperle, the Good Witch of the North, played by Thelma Eley. Green is on stage for the first time since the 6th grade. She came to the auditions to support her daughter, Nauria Mitchell (Dorothy) and turned out to be perfect for the role. A native of Philadelphia, she’s lived in Hickory for 13 years. Eley was part of the “Ain’t Misbehavin’” ensemble and made her HCT debut as Mabel in the 2015 production of “Crowns,” for which she won a Kay Award for Outstanding Actress in a Character Role. She works as a strategic sourcing manager for CBRE, Inc. and was recently appointed to the HCT Board of Directors.
In “The Wiz,” the Wicked Witch has a name, Evilene, who in this production is played by Kecia Hopper, making her second HCT stage appearance. Her first was in the award-winning ensemble of “Crowns,” in 2015. A native of Atlanta, she came to Hickory 20 years ago and works as a librarian for Newton-Conover City Schools.
David Ingle is playing the main man himself, The Wiz. Cherryville, NC is home to Ingle but he’s lived in Hickory for 22 years. His first appearance at HCT was in the award-winning ensemble of the blockbuster production of “Les Misérables” in 2014, which he followed up with two shows at The Green Room, “Guys and Dolls” and “Miracle on 34th Street” before returning to HCT to play Francis in “La Cage aux Folles.” During the day he works as IT/Office Manager for King Hickory.
Performances of “The Wiz” are Fridays and Saturdays – September 2, 3, 9, 10, 16 and 17 at 8:00pm; Thursdays – September 8 and 15 at 7:30pm; and Sundays – September 11 and 18 at 2:30pm.
Tickets for Friday through Sunday performances are $20, with a $2 discount for seniors and half price for students and for youth 18 and under. Thursday night performances all adults are $14 and youth and students are $10. Tickets may be purchased online at hickorytheatre.showare.com or at the Theatre box office, which is open 12-5 Wednesday through Saturday, in person or by phoning 828-328-2283.
The Hickory Community Theatre is a Funded Affiliate of the United Arts Council of Catawba County. “The Wiz” is the first show in the Theatre’s 68th season, sponsored by Paramount Automotive, and is produced by Cargo Transporters, Corning Optical Communications, Dr. Kimberly S. Jones DDS and TRUMPF, Inc.
Photo: (top L-R) R.J. Christian, Donovan Harper, (middle L-R) Niyesha Green, Nauria Mitchell, Naomi Segers, (bottom L-R) Kecia Hopper and Thelma Eley play some of the major characters in “The Wiz,” opening September 2nd at the Hickory Community Theatre. For tickets or more information go to hickorytheatre.org or call 828-327-3855. Photo by John Koval.