Gospel Choir Catches The Wiz, in Chicago Featuring Olivet Alum

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Melody Betts ’04  Wows Gospel Choir Students and Others with Performance in The Wiz

This feature was written by December 2023 graduate Caleb Arthur. 

The University of Olivet Gospel Choir, an elite singing group, traveled to Chicago to see The Wiz on Tuesday, Nov. 28.

The Gospel Choir attended the play at the Cadillac Palace Theater in the Chicago Loop area and witnessed some of the world’s most talented performers on stage. One of these performers was none other than Olivet alum Melody Betts, who played not one, but two characters in the musical. She played the roles of Aunt Em and Evillene, also known as the Wicked Witch of the West.

Once the Gospel Choir was made aware of Melody’s participation, they made it a priority to make an appearance at the play and support her.

Prior to the performance, the choir was able to get in contact with Betts, who was kind enough to do a meet-and-greet with the group backstage after the play was finished. Here, they were able to meet other performers such as Glinda, played by Deborah Cox, Dorothy, played by Mariah Lyttle, Scarecrow, played by Avery Wilson, and The Wiz, played by Alan Mingo Jr.

Betts and the Gospel Choir discussed her experience in the field of theatre. “It has been wonderful and rewarding but also challenging,” she said. “It is not just about what people see while we are on stage. I am extremely grateful to be where I am but as with anything there are days when I consider walking away. Being an actor is not easy and comes with its own challenges just as any job/career does. It includes everything that the human experience includes. I will say that there is no place I would rather be than where I am now. So with the challenges and life circumstances, I would not give up this opportunity.”

The Gospel Choir students were amazed by the remarkable performance given by the cast and ensemble. Freshman alto Gweneth Lyczynski said, “As someone who grew up in theatre, I really appreciated the characterization and energy given by the actors. Personally, I really enjoyed the Scarecrow’s performance, his singing and dancing skills were sensational.”

The University of Olivet Gospel choir is directed under the leadership of Professor Kwamise Taylor and often describes the group as “a small group with a big sound.” Taylor will be entering her fourth semester leading the choir in spring 2024. For information about choir performance dates, email Taylor at ktaylor@uolivet.edu.



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