The Wiz reimagines the classic story of L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz with soulful music. It has had enduring popularity in theatres since its birth in 1974. Beloved for its spirited characters, exhilarating music, and out-of-the-box storytelling, this musical brings a different positive feeling as one revisits the magical land of Oz. With soul, R&B, and gospel as the musical’s prominent genres, The Wiz uniquely embraces African-American culture. The well-known tale of Dorothy and the Yellow Brick Road takes on a new message in this musical that will leave an indelible mark in your heart. A cyclone of spectacular performances comes to the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center this fall. Allow yourself to be carried away back to the magical land of Oz!
The Wiz Tickets:
“With belting vocals and dazzling dance, this musical update jumps into a vivid Oz full of street art and neon lights.” – The Guardian
“This all-black musical version of The Wizard of Oz is a carnival of fun.” – Time Magazine
The Wiz was the vision of producer Ken Harper. In the 70s, he was working as a program affairs director at a radio station when the idea came to him: he could create a version of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” The story by L. Frank Baum is not new. By the time Harper had the idea, a Broadway musical already run in the early 1900s, and the popular 1939 movie was already a classic known to many. Despite these adaptations, Harper wanted to bring his own touch to the array of reiterations. He wanted it to be about black culture.
The Wiz has been culturally game-changing for the past many decades. Its portrayal of the classical story is breathtaking as it embodies a narrative of racial liberation and Afrofuturism by merging conventional African tradition with fiction and science.
Many of the iconic moments in theatre and history were heavily contributed by the movement of The Wiz in bringing life to the magical world while representing the rich culture. The initiative brought out major turning points in pop culture for decades as notable figures in the industry came together to deliver a few of the characters. The first memorable and honorable mention would be Diana Ross’ portrayal of Dorothy in The Wiz Live! musical production in 1978. Many would remember the 1978 groundbreaking film that featured a star-studded cast of Black pop culture icons—including the likes of Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Nipsey Russell, Ted Ross, and Richard Pryor, among others. An inspiration and a must, the big-screen musical has become a kind of rite of passage for the black community.
Realizing the vision, Charlie Smalls and William F. Brown were tasked to create the music and lyrics and book, respectively. Both made sure to bring a new and unique perspective to the original material. The production was choreographed by George Faison, with scenic designer Tom H. John, costumes by Geoffrey Holder, lighting by Tharon Musser, and orchestrations by Harold Wheeler. With this goal, the soulful tunes were formed, and the story was cast under the light of African-American culture.
The story starts with Dorothy and her aunt, uncle, and best friend, Toto. The small family settles into the simple life of farming and caring for one another. The scene takes place in their small house situated in a wide field of crops, serving as the family’s source of income. Dorothy starts with the sentiment of disliking the mundanity of her life. She expresses her dissatisfaction with the dragging days and the dreary, wearisome work they do and wishes to explore the exciting horizons of unexpected places of wonder and adventure. Her Aunt Em listens and only scolds her extravagant ideas of the world and points out her ungratefulness for how blessed she already is. After an argument, Aunt Em apologizes to her for an unintentionally hurtful remark. She explains that she only scolds because she wants Dorothy to be the best she can be and fears that she will not be prepared for the responsibilities life will soon put upon her.
Act I takes the form of the iconic tornado that would whisk our protagonist and her best friend to the curious and wonderful world of magic. The family foresees a raging tornado from afar and prepares their humble home for impact. As they take cover underneath the storm cellar, the house is lifted away by the tornado. After the storm has impacted the house, Dorothy and Toto find themselves in a strange and wonderful place called the Land of Oz and are greeted by the charming people, the munchkins. The Good Witch of the North tells her that she has stomped the Wicked Witch of the East with her house and freed the hardworking community of the munchkins. Addaperle, the good witch, wishes her to be on her way and gives her the wicked witch’s magical silver shoes. Dorothy, distressed and confused and only wanting to go home, follows the good witch’s advice to tread the yellow brick road toward the Emerald City. There, she will meet the mystical and powerful Wizard of Oz. Little did she know her journey would cross paths with other lost and confused souls along the way. The heart of the story lies in one’s thankfulness and contentment of the strengths and weaknesses one already has.
“An absolutely stunning show!” – Fairly Spiritual
The second Broadway revival of the play in 2023-2024’s Dorothy will be played by the talented Nichelle Lewis. The Virginian actress will star alongside Wayne Brady for the show. The performer was previously announced for the role of the Wiz on Broadway, following appearances in San Francisco Golden Gate Theatre and Los Angeles. They’ll be joined by Avery Wilson, Phillip Johnson Richardson, and Kyle Ramar Freeman for the portrayal of the three iconic roles of the story.
The ever-present and immaculate international performance of the company continues with dancing, singing, and laughter for the dazzling musical that won seven Tony Awards when it opened on Broadway in 1975. It may be old, but the legacy never stops there as the story takes us in a whirlwind of its timeless charm. “The Wiz” will be at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center and sheds a new and more creative light on retelling the classical story of imagination, loveable characters, and exciting journey.