The Wiz

The Wiz

Infobox Musical
name= The Wiz

caption=Original Cast Recording
music=Charlie Smalls
lyrics=Charlie Smalls
book=William F. Brown
basis="The Wonderful Wizard of Oz"
by L. Frank Baum
productions= 1975 Broadway
1984 Broadway Revival
2006 San Diego
awards= Tony Award for Best Musical
Tony Award for Best Original Score

"The Wiz" is a 1975 Broadway musical, based on "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" by L. Frank Baum, exclusively featuring African American actors. The play features music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls, and its original cast featured Stephanie Mills, Hinton Battle, Tiger Haynes, Ted Ross, Dee Dee Bridgewater, André DeShields, Tasha Thomas and Mabel King. The show opened on January 5, 1975 at the Majestic Theatre and ended on January 28, 1979, running for 1,672 performances. A motion picture adaptation of "The Wiz" was produced in 1978 (see 1978 in film) by Motown Productions and Universal Pictures, starring Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell, Ted Ross, Lena Horne, Richard Pryor, and Mabel King.


The musical marked the first time that all of the "Wizard of Oz" characters were portrayed as African Americans. Among them, it was one of the most popular musicals of the time.

Broadway musical

The Broadway musical opened on January 5, 1975 with Stephanie Mills as Dorothy, Hinton Battle as Scarecrow, Tiger Haynes as Tin Man, Ted Ross as Lion, Dee Dee Bridgewater as Glinda the Good Witch, André DeShields as the Wiz and Mabel King as Evillene the Wicked Witch of the West with Johna-Ann Washington as (The Good Witch of the North). The production was directed by Geoffrey Holder. "The Wiz" opened at the Majestic Theatre and later moved to The Broadway Theatre. It ran for four years and over 1600 performances, and won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The most popular song from the production was "Ease on Down the Road", sung by the characters as they dance down the Yellow Brick Road.

Along with other musicals like "Purlie" (1971) and "Raisin" (1974), "The Wiz" was a breakthrough for Broadway, a large-scale big-budget musical featuring an all-black cast. It laid the foundation for later African-American hits like "Bubbling Brown Sugar", "Dreamgirls" and "Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies".

It was never performed on London's West End, but a handful of amateur and semi-professional productions have appeared in Britain with black and non-black casts.

During the tour, Stephanie Mills was replaced by Rene Harris in 1976. Deborah Malone replaced Harris in 1978.

Motion picture

Motown Productions acquired the film rights to "The Wiz" in 1977, and signed Stephanie Mills in anticipation of having her star in the film adaptation. Motown singer and actress Diana Ross asked Motown CEO Berry Gordy to cast her as Dorothy instead, but Gordy declined, feeling the thirty-three year old Ross was far too old for the part. However, Ross contacted Rob Cohen of Universal Pictures, who offered to have Universal finance the film if Ross were to play Dorothy, at which point Gordy acquiesced.

The resulting film version of "The Wiz" also starred former Motown star Michael Jackson as The Scarecrow, Nipsey Russell as the Tin Man, Richard Pryor as the Wiz, and Lena Horne as Glinda the Good Witch. Ted Ross and Mabel King reprised their respective roles of the Cowardly Lion and Evilene from the Broadway production. Sidney Lumet served as director, working with screenwriter Joel Schumacher (who used none of Brown's stage script) and music supervisor Quincy Jones. Although the stage musical's setting begins in Kansas before moving into the fanciful Oz (as do most other versions of the "Oz" stories), the film version of "The Wiz" is set in New York City: Dorothy's real-life home is in Harlem, and the Oz of the film is an alternate fantasy version of the rest of New York City. The $22 million production was poorly received by critics and grossed only $12 million during its original theatrical release. Nor has it become an annual favorite on television as the famous 1939 film of "The Wizard of Oz" did.

"The Wiz" was Michael Jackson's first feature film, and is Diana Ross's final theatrical feature film to date. Its commercial failure helped to bring to an end the stream of all-black films that had begun with the "blaxploitation film" era of the 1970s. [cite book | last =Moon | first =Spencer | authorlink = | coauthors =George Hill | title =Reel Black Talk: A Sourcebook of 50 American Filmmakers | publisher =Greenwood Press | date =1997 | location = | pages =xii | url = | doi = | id = | isbn = 0313298300] cite book | last =Benshoff | first =Harry M. | authorlink = | coauthors =Sean Griffin | title =America on Film: Representing Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality at the Movies | publisher =Blackwell Publishing | date =2004 | location = | pages =Page 88 | url = | doi = | id = | isbn = 0631225838] However, Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones's collaboration on the film's soundtrack led to Jones producing three of Jackson's most successful albums, "Off the Wall", "Thriller", and "Bad". In later years, due to its recurrent broadcasts on television, "The Wiz" has become something of a cult classic among African-American audiences. [cite book | last =Nowlan | first =Robert A. | authorlink = | coauthors =Gwendolyn Wright Nowlan | title =Cinema Sequels and Remakes, 1903-1987 | publisher =McFarland & Co Inc Pub | date =1989 | location = | pages =Page 834 | url = | doi = | id = | isbn = 0899503144]

Dueling revivals: America vs. Holland

"The Wiz" was revived on Broadway in 1984 with Stephanie Mills reprising her role as Dorothy. The production, which played at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, was a flop, lasting only 13 performances.

Dodger Productions acquired the worldwide rights to revive the Wiz in 2004. It is rumored that when Dodger Productions and Joop Van den Ende's Stage Entertainment split in 2005, the worldwide rights to the revival were split between the two companies, with the Dodgers retaining the US rights, while Stage Entertainment kept the European rights.

The new American production of "The Wiz" began in September 2006 at the La Jolla Playhouse in California. Tony Award-winning director Des McAnuff, and with Harold Wheeler, orchestrator of the original Broadway version, have revised the show for contemporary audiences. It starred David Alan Grier and featured sets by Robert Brill. Its run was extended by more than three weeks due to popular demand, and it is rumored to be headed for Broadway. However, there has been no official word on this matter.

Simultaneously, Joop Van den Ende's Stage Entertainment is mounting a full-scale, Broadway-caliber production at the Beatrix Theater in Utrecht, Netherlands. Directed by Glen Castle, the production will feature choreography by Anthony Van Laast of Mamma Mia fame, sets by Tony Award winner David Gallo and costumes by Miguel Humidor. It stars a number of Dutch theater and music stars.

Stage Entertainment also acquired ownership of Dodger Stages, a multi-theater Off-Broadway venue in New York City (now dubbed New World Stages) in the break-up.

ee also

*The Wizard of Oz (adaptations) — other adaptations of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz"


External links

* [ "The Wiz" unofficial website]
* [ "The Wiz" at FlyRope]

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