The Wiz is a musical re-imagining of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, with an all African-American cast. It premiered on Broadway in 1975. It was directed by Geoffrey Holder, and had a score by Charlie Smalls, and a libretto by William F. Brown. This production won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The musical was made into a movie in 1978 and had many revivals including a dutch revival in 2006 and a TV musical special that aired on NBC in 2015. Between these adaptations, the play's frequent returns to the stage, and the continued popularity of such numbers as "Ease on Down the Road" and "Home", The Wiz appears to stand as one of the most well-known direct adaptations of original book.
The story begins in Kansas. As Dorothy Gale chases after her dog Toto, an upset Aunt Em tells her that she needs to take more responsibility (The Feeling We Once Had). Afterwards, a tornado (played by dancers dressed in black) sweeps Dorothy and the farmhouse away while Aunt Em, Uncle Henry and Toto go into hiding. Dorothy and the house land in the magical Land of Oz, falling on Evamene the Wicked Witch of the East. Dorothy soon finds herself surrounded by small round shaped people called Munchkins . The Munchkins rejoice, joined by Addapearle the Good Witch of the North after she comes to see what has happened. Dorothy asks them how can she get back home, and they tell her she must go and visit The Wiz (He's the Wizard). To go to him, she must follow the Yellow Brick Road (played by four men in yellow and orange square costumes) to his home in the Emerald City. Addapearle gives Dorothy Evamean's Silver Shoes to protect her, and sends her on her way.
Dorothy is frightened along her journey (Soon As I Get Home), but her fears disappear once she meets a friendly Scarecrow, who wishes to get down from his pole. After Dorothy helps him, he tells her his life story (I Was Born on the Day Before Yesterday), and his desires for a brain. Dorothy tells him that the Wiz might be able to give him a brain, so he joins her (Ease On Down the Road). While in a small patch in the wood, they come across a rusted Tin Man, who begs for oil (Slide Some Oil To Me). After the duo helps the Tin Man, he tells the two of them that he
wants a heart, so his life can be complete. They ask him to join their party, and he accepts the offer (Ease On Down the Road "Reprise"). In the middle of the woods they run into the Cowardly Lion (I'm a Mean Ole Lion). Once the Tin Man and Scarecrow say they aren't afraid of him, the Lion fills up with rage and tries to attack them. But Dorothy pushes the Lion, then he shows his real side: He wants courage, and decides to join them (Ease on down the road "Reprise").
Dorothy and her friends encounter many more dangers on their way to the Emerald City. During a battle with the Kalidahs, the Lion shows his cowardice again. After the Scarecrow and Tinman heckle the Lion for a short while, Dorothy cheers him up (Be a Lion). The friends see the Emerald City over the horizon, but have to pass through the Poppies, which the Munchkins warned Dorothy would put her to sleep. They all run across, except for the Lion. He gets hypnotized by the Poppy Girls, but is rescued by the Mice Squad.
Finally with the Lion rejoining them. Dorothy and her friends reach the Emerald City. The Gatekeeper gives them special glasses to enter. Inside, (Emerald City Ballet) the citizens realize Dorothy is wearing the Silver Shoes, and show her the way to the Wiz. As the enter The Wizard's large empty room, The Wiz himself enters (So You Wanted to Meet the Wizard), and asks them what they want from him. He refuses to grant their wishes, until he hears the Tin Man's wish (What would I do if I could feel). He is touched by the song, and promises to grant their wishes, only if they do him a favor: To go kill Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West.
Evillene sits on her carcass-covered throne, and instructs her slaves, the Winkies, to not bother her, for she is in a bad mood (Don't Nobody Bring Me No Bad News). When a messenger tells Evillene that Dorothy and her friends are coming to kill her, Evillene gets furious, and orders the messenger to be killed. Then she sends the Winged Monkeys to capture the four of them (Funky Monkeys). At the Witch's Castle, she puts Dorothy and the Lion to work alongside the Winkies. The Scarecrow and the Tin Man are nowhere to be found. Evillene tries to make Dorothy give her the slippers, until the Lion cracks a joke about the witch being fat, then she threatens to kill him. Dorothy gets so upset that she throws a bucket of water on the witch. With a scream of terror, Evillene melts away. The Winkies rejoice at the death of the witch, and the Tin Man and Scarecrow are rejoined with their companions (Everybody Rejoice).
The four return to the Emerald City only to discover the Wiz is a fake, and call out his deception (Who Do You Think You Are?). The Wiz tells them he's just a nobody from Nebraska, whose hot air balloon was caught in a big storm, and landed in the middle of a ladies social in Oz. The women had never seen a hot air balloon before, and proclaimed him the Wizard (If You Believe). Back in the present, the four still want their wishes granted. The Wiz looks in his "magic" storage chest, and hands out some "miracles": A bowl of All-Bran for the Scarecrows' brain, a large red heart for the Tin Man, and a bottle full of liquid courage for the Lion to drink. Then he promises to take Dorothy home himself.
At a farewell ceremony, the Wiz says his goodbyes to his citizens (Ya'll Got It). Unfortunately, the balloon accidentally leaves without Dorothy. She throws a temper tantrum, then Addapearle appears. Dorothy asks her how can she get home now, so Addapearle conjures Glinda the Good Witch of the South to help her. She arrives in a large tent, with an escort of four Quadlings, and tells Dorothy to rest (A Rested Body is a Rested Mind). Glinda then tells her she can go home if she believes in herself, clicks her heels three times, and thinks of home (If You Believe " Reprise"). After Glinda and Addapearle exit, Dorothy promises her friends that she'll someday use the Silver Shoes to visit them again. But now Dorothy must return to Kansas. As Dorothy thinks of her home (Home), Oz and its denizens slowly disappear around her. After she clicks her heels, Toto runs into her arms, welcoming her back to the farm.
- Book: William F. Brown
- Book: Sam Bobrick [uncredited]
- Source Material: Based on the novel by L. Frank Baum
- Music/Lyrics: Charlie Smalls
- Music (additional): George Faison
- Music (additional): Timothy Graphenreed
- Music (additional): Luther Vandross
- Producer: Ken Harper
- Director: Geoffrey Holder
- Choreography: George Faison
- Settings: Tom H. John
- Costumes: Geoffrey Holder
- Lighting: Tharon Musser
- Sound: Richard J.C. Miller
- Musical Director: Charles H. Coleman
- Orchestrations: Harold Wheeler
- Dance Arrangements: Timothy Graphenreed
- Vocal Arrangements: Charles H. Coleman
- Music Coordinator: Earl Shendell
- Wardrobe Supervisor: Yvonne Stoney
- Assistant to Choreographer/Dance Captain: John Parks
- Wigs: Stanley James
- General Manager: Emanuel Azenberg
- General Manager: Eugene V. Wolsk
- Manager: Jose Vega
- Company Manager: Susan Bell
- Press: Merlin Group
- Press: Sandra Manley
- Press: Elizabeth Rodman
- Aunt Em: Tasha Thomas
- Toto: Nancy
- Dorothy: Stephanie Mills
- Uncle Henry: Ralph Wilcox
- Tornado: Evelyn Thomas
- Munchkins: Phylicia Ayers-Allen, Pi Douglass, Joni Palmer, Andy Torres, Carl Weaver
- Addaperle: Clarice Taylor
- Yellow Brick Road: Ronald Dunham, Eugene Little, John Parks, Kenneth Scott
- Scarecrow: Hinton Battle
- Crows: Wendy Edmead, Frances Morgan, Ralph Wilcox
- Tin Man: Tiger Haynes
- Cowardly Lion: Ted Ross
- Kalidahs: Phillip Bond, Pi Douglass, Rodney Green, Evelyn Thomas, Andy Torres
- Poppies: Lettie Battle, Leslie Butler, Eleanor McCoy, Frances Morgan, Joni Palmer
- Field Mice: Phylicia Ayers-Allen, Pi Douglass, Carl Weaver, Ralph Wilcox
- Royal Gatekeeper: Danny Beard
- The Wiz: André De Shields
- Evillene: Mabel King
- Lord High Underling: Ralph Wilcox
- Soldier Messenger: Carl Weaver
- Winged Monkey: Andy Torres
- Glinda: Dee Dee Bridgewater
- Emerald City Citizens: Lettie Battle, Leslie Butler, Wendy Edmead, Eleanor McCoy, Frances Morgan, Joni Palmer, Evelyn Thomas, Phillip Bond, Ronald Dunham, Rodney Green, Eugene Little, John Parks, Kenneth Scott, Andy Torres
- Pit Singers: Frank Floyd, Sam Harkness, Jozella Reed, Tasha Thomas
Similarities to Baum's Story
The Wiz is seen as possibly one of the most faithful stage adaptations of the 1900s novel written by Baum. Distancing away from the MGM movie as much as the can by adding the elements from the original story which include:
- The Silver Slippers are used rather than the Ruby Slippers.
- The Good Witch of the North is a seperate character from Glinda who is The Good Witch of The South
- The Tin Woodsman was once a normal man.
- The Kalidahs appear in the show. Unlike the book however, the Kalidahs are not ferocious beasts but instead a traveling gang of witch-like beings that roam around and terrorize anyone who crosses their path.
- The Lion is rescued from the Poppies by Mice.
- When entering the Emerald City they must wear green glasses to protect their eyes from the glaring Emeralds
- The Winkies are the cowardly slave to Evillene rather than her soldiers.
- The Flying monkeys have the ability too talk and are summoned when Evillene chants for them.
- The Witch uses Dororthy and the Lion for her own personal gain in her castle for a period of time. Unlike the book, where the Tin Woodsman and Scarecrow are destroyed, they don't return back onstage until after Evillene is destroyed with no explanation as to where they've been.
- The Wizard grants there wishes ( Which include Scarecrow's head with a box of bran flakes cereal, Gives the Tin Woodsman an artificial heart and Gives the Lion a potion to drink to gain courage. )
- The Quadlings make an appearance along with Glinda.
- The Feeling We Once Had: Aunt Em
- Tornado Ballet: Company
- He's the Wizard : Addaparle and Munchkins
- Soon as I Get Home: Dorothy
- I Was Born on the Day Before Yesterday: Scarecrow and Crows
- Ease on Down The Road: Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion
- Slide Some Oil to Me: Tinman
- I'm A Mean Ole Lion: Lion
- Kalidah Battle: Four Friends, Kalidahs and Yellow Brick Road (not on soundtrack)
- Be a Lion : Dorothy and Lion
- Lion's Dream: Lion and Poppies (not on soundtrack)
- Emerald City Ballet: Company (not on soundtrack)
- So You Wanted to Meet the Wizard: The Wiz
- What Would I Do If I Could Feel: Tinman
- Don't Nobody Bring Me No Bad News: Evillene and Winkies
- Funky Monkeys: Monkeys (not on soundtrack)
- Wonder,Wonder Why: Dorothy (only in 1984 revival)
- Everybody Rejoice/ Brand New Day: Company
- Who Do You Think You Are?: Four Friends (not on soundtrack)
- If You Believe: The Wiz (not on soundtrack)
- Y'all Got It: The Wiz and Company
- A Rested Body is A Rested Mind: Glinda (not on soundtrack)
- If You Believe (Reprise): Glinda
- Home : Dorothy
For More info check here: The Wiz Original Cast Album
- The original staging of The Wiz suffered low turnouts before and after arriving on Broadway. That is until the producers created a TV ad campaign featuring the song “Ease On Down the Road,” which attracted huge audiences. At the time, Broadway shows didn’t advertise on television.
Various Clips from 1975-1992