“The Wiz” Makes Its Pre-Broadway Debut in San Francisco

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All photos courtesy of Jeremy Daniel.

When the original “The Wiz” musical premiered in 1974, it was not met with huge critical acclaim until it was released as a film in 1978, from which it quickly developed a cult following. Now, 50 years later, “The Wiz” is returning to Broadway with a brand new cast and crew. 

Though the new adaptation is based on the same book and music as the original, it brings a fresh, vibrant, hilarious, and soulful reinterpretation of L. Frank Baum’s classic tale, “The Wizard of Oz” through a contemporary African-American lens. Directed by Schele Williams, this musical brings the world of Oz to life with an incredible cast, dazzling sets, and infectiously good music. 

At the heart of “The Wiz” is the cast and their excellent performances. Nichelle Lewis portrays Dorothy (originally played by Diana Ross), a young woman who finds herself whisked away to the fantastical Land of Oz after a tornado carries her away from home. Lewis imbues Dorothy with a perfect blend of innocence, determination, and vulnerability, making her a relatable and endearing protagonist. As she embarks on her journey to find her way back home, Lewis’ shining vocals carry her through the trials and tribulations she faces in Oz. 

Avery Wilson as Scarecrow
Deborah Cox as Glinda and Nichelle Lewis as Dorothy

Avery Wilson as Scarecrow (originally played by Michael Jackson) is another highlight of the show. He melds comedy, emotion, and some truly miraculous stunts into a heartfelt performance that is both hilarious and beautiful to watch.

Wayne Brady brings an iconic voice to The Wiz (originally performed by Richard Pryor). He is snappy and funny, and does a perfect job of imbuing The Wiz with the big-shot flair so befitting of the character. Brady’s comedic skill, powerful vocals, and top-notch acting is exactly what the role demands, and he delivers on every front.

Wayne Brady as The Wiz

Visually, “The Wiz” is a feast for the eyes, thanks to its imaginative sets and dazzling costumes. From the glittering Emerald City to the creaking cogs of Evillene’s factory, every scene is meticulously crafted to transport audiences to the whimsical world of Oz. The use of a stage projector to create backgrounds was tasteful and well executed. The vibrant color palette and intricate production design create a sense of wonder and enchantment that captivates viewers from start to finish. The use of some unique visual elements, namely the tornado and yellow brick road being portrayed by dancers, gave the performance even more flair and color.

But perhaps the most memorable aspect of “The Wiz” is its unforgettable music. Featuring composition by Charlie Smalls, the musical is filled with iconic songs that have become classics in their own right. From the infectious energy of “Ease on Down the Road,” and “Meet The Wizard,” to the soulful balladry of “Home,” each musical number is iconic and a testament to the lasting cultural significance of “The Wiz.” The musical is set to release on Broadway on March 29th.

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