Wiz

The Wiz is a musical with music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls and book by William F. Brown. It is a retelling of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in the context of African American culture.

A re-imaging of The Wizard of Oz, set against an urban background with an African American cast. Dorothy is a 24-year-old kindergarten teacher from Harlem, who along with her dog Toto are lost in a snowstorm on the night of Thanksgiving and end up in the Land of Oz, which looks like a strangly surreal verison of New York City. Dorothy learns the only way she can get home is to ease on down the road to see the Wiz. Along the way she meets a scarecrow made of garbage who wants a brain; a Tin Man, who is a turn-of-the-century mechanical carnie from Coney Island who wants a heart; and a lion who was banished from the jungle and must make his living as a statue in front of the main research branch of the New York Public Library.

The Wiz originally opened at the Majestic Theatre and later moved to The Broadway Theatre. It closed on January 28, 1979, after four years and 1,672 performances.The original 1975 Broadway production won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The musical was an early example of Broadway’s mainstream acceptance of works with an all-black cast. The musical has had revivals in New York, London, San Diego and the Netherlands, and an off-Broadway Encores! concert version was staged in June 2009. A film adaptation was released in 1978 starring Dianna Ross and Michael Jackson. 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.

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