‘The Wiz’ will ease on back to Broadway in 2024. But first, a national tour
“The Wiz” will ease on down the road back to Broadway in an all-new adaptation set for 2024.
But before its return to New York, the Tony Award-winning musical will kick off a national tour next year in Baltimore, where the original production debuted in 1974.
The “entirely reimagined revival” will be helmed by theater vet and Black Theater United founding member Schele Williams (“Motown the Musical,” “Aida,” “Rent”) in her Broadway directorial debut. It will also feature additional material by Emmy-nominated writer and TV host Amber Ruffin (“The Amber Ruffin Show,” “Key & Peele,” “Late Night With Seth Meyers,” “A Black Lady Sketch Show”).
“I wouldn’t be on Broadway if it wasn’t for The Wiz…the music, the costumes, the choreography and [original cast member] Stephanie Mills! Seeing that show changed my life,” Williams said in a statement to Broadway World. “It is, in every way, a celebration of Black excellence. I am honored to helm this production and I can’t think of a better time to tell this story.”
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“I’m f— proud as butt💚💚💚,” the “Amber Ruffin Show” host tweeted Thursday upon sharing the news. “I SHOULD TRULY GET A BILLION DOLLARS FOR NOT SAYING ANYTHING THIS WHOLE TIME”
Choreographer JaQuel Knight — famous for iconic dances on Beyoncé's “Single Ladies” and “Formation” and Megan Thee Stallion’s “Body” — will make his Broadway debut with the show too. The new musical will use the classic book by William F. Brown and the Tony Award-winning score by Charlie Smalls (with famous songs such as “Ease on Down the Road” and “Home”). Music supervision, orchestrations and music arrangements will be done by Drama Desk Award nominee and Kennedy Center honoree Joseph Joubert.
“It is a dream come true to be a part of what I consider the epitome of Black excellence,” Knight said. “There’s not one piece of art that has had influence on popular culture like ‘The Wiz.’ I’m humbled to not only have the opportunity to leave my own mark on a true work of art, but to continue the storytelling and legacy building on the beauty of blackness through dance, movement & attitude.”
The show, a reimagining of L. Frank Baum’s 1900 children’s novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” will begin its national tour in fall 2023 at the Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore and make its way across the country before settling in New York for its limited engagement in spring 2024. Casting will be announced at a later time, and tour cities and scheduling will be announced in January.
So now we know: It’s much easier to successfully stage a famous musical on live television if you cast a group of multi-talented, high-energy and personally kinetic performers who know how to own the spectacle rather than the other way around.
The landmark 1975 production of “The Wiz,” which featured an all-Black cast, ran at the Majestic Theatre until 1979. The show received seven Tony Awards, including musical, original score and acting prizes for Ted Ross and Dee Dee Bridgewater. Choreographer George Faison also won a Tony, as did Geoffrey Holder, for direction and costume design.
The musical was revived on Broadway in 1984, re-opening for a month-long run at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in New York and was perhaps most famously adapted into a 1978 film directed by Sidney Lumet that starred Diana Ross as Dorothy and the late Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow. Nipsey Russell, Richard Pryor, Lena Horne, Ted Ross and Mabel King also starred in the iconic movie.
In 2015, NBC adapted the show for the small screen with “The Wiz Live!” by Matthew Diamond and Kenny Leon. The positively received live TV event starred Oscar winner Common, “Glee” alum Amber Riley, “Orange Is the New Black” star Uzo Aduba, Ne-Yo, David Alan Grier, Mary J. Blige, Elijah Kelley, Shanice Williams, Queen Latifah and original cast member Mills as Auntie Em.
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