Hillside High drama students get Tony Award winning advice

George Faison talks to drama students at Hillside High School. (Derrick Lewis/CBS North Carolina)
George Faison talks to drama students at Hillside High School. (Derrick Lewis/CBS North Carolina)

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Some Hillside High School students putting on a rendition of “The Wiz” got some advice Thursday from a Tony Award winning professional.

The Hillside students are singing their way down the yellow brick road as they work to put on “The Wiz,” a musical that has been around for more than four decades.

Jordan Hankerson earned the role of Dorothy in the production.

“Think of all the people that’s actually played Dorothy. It was fun, nerve wracking, but the overall experience, it was just amazing,” Hankerson said.

“The Wiz” is a version of “The Wizard of Oz” from an African American perspective.

After the first performance, Tony Award winning choreographer George Faison gave the actors advice.

“Never lose your imagination. That will free you. When you’re down, that will free you. When you’re down, and out, you can always think about the really wonderful things,” Faison told the students.

In 1975, Faison became the first African American to win a Tony Award for best choreography.

“It’s almost 42 years since ‘The Wiz’ has been on Broadway and it still carries that same magic, no matter what they put on, or who’s playing Dorothy,” Faison said.

The actors said continuing that legacy is no easy task.

Camryn Sherer, who works as the stage manager and plays Glinda the Good Witch, said she appreciates the advice from a professional.

“Him going out of his way to see us, it just makes us, it kind of gives us affirmation that we are doing well and to keep progressively getting better,” Sherer said.

The students said being on stage has a bigger purpose, and that it feels like they are carrying on the legacy of the original actors.

“Kind of like to hand you the torch, like you’re in a race or something, they hand you the torch like ok, you got to bring it home,” Hankerson said.

The director of the play, Wendell Tabb, is celebrating 30 years of being a drama teacher at Hillside.

The musical will run through Sunday.

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