The Wiz

The Wiz (original cast recording - album cover).jpg
The Wiz: The Super Soul Musical "Wonderful Wizard of Oz" is a musical with music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls (and others) and book by William F. Brown. It is a retelling of L. Frank Baum's classic 1900 children's novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in the context of modern African-American culture. It opened on October 21, 1974 at the Morris A. Mechanic Theatre in Baltimore, Maryland and moved to the Majestic Theatre[2] with a new cast on January 5, 1975.

The 1975 Broadway production won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It was an early example of Broadway's mainstream acceptance of works with an all-black cast. It has had revivals in New York, London, San Diego and the Netherlands, and a limited-run revival was presented by Encores! at New York City Center in June 2009. A big-budget film adaptation of the same name was released in 1978, with Ted Ross and Mabel King reprising their roles, it has since become a cult classic. A live television production of the stage version, The Wiz Live!, was broadcast on NBC on December 3, 2015, with an encore presentation on December 19 of the same year.

The idea for the musical originated with producer Ken Harper. He replaced the original director, Gilbert Moses, with Geoffrey Holder in Detroit during out-of-town tryouts.

The original Baltimore cast included Renee Harris as Dorothy, Charles Valentino as the Scarecrow, Ben Harney as the Tin Man, Ken Prymus as the Cowardly Lion, and Butterfly McQueen as the Queen of the Field Mice. Only Harney would remain in the Broadway cast, but in a much smaller role. Harris stayed on as understudy for the role of Dorothy, as did McQueen for the role of Addaperle.

The musical opened on January 5, 1975 at the Majestic Theatre, with Geoffrey Holder as director and the following cast:[3]

After drawing mixed critical reviews, producer Ken Harper considered closing the musical after its Broadway opening night. One source attributes its turnaround success to a publicity campaign that included a TV commercial featuring the cast singing "Ease On Down the Road," a song that proved so popular that it was released as a single recorded by the disco group Consumer Rapport;[6] The single hit the Billboard Soul Singles chart, peaking at #19 and the Hot 100, peaking at #42.[7]

William F. Brown, who wrote the book, gave a more specific explanation in 1993: "20th Century-Fox, the musical's major investor, put in another $100,000 to keep it going and everyone agreed to royalty cuts until the production's cost—about $1.1 million—was recouped....By the eighth week, we were selling out."[8]

The Broadway production moved to The Broadway Theatre on May 25, 1977, and closed on January 28, 1979, after four years and 1,672 performances.[3]

This page was last edited on 8 July 2018, at 18:42 (UTC).
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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