"Ease on Down the Road": The Wiz Begins Encores! Run June 12

News   "Ease on Down the Road": The Wiz Begins Encores! Run June 12 The City Center Encores! Summer Stars production of the Charlie Smalls-William F. Brown musical The Wiz, which boasts R&B artist Ashanti as Dorothy, begins performances June 12 at the famed New York venue.
Orlando Jones and Ashanti
Orlando Jones and Ashanti Photo by Robert J. Saferstein

Tony-nominated In the Heights director Thomas Kail and his Tony-winning collaborators, Andy Blankenbuehler (choreographer) and Alex Lacamoire (musical director), stage the production, which plays City Center through July 5. The musical will officially open June 18.

The cast also features Orlando Jones at The Wiz, Tony winner LaChanze as Glinda, Tichina Arnold as Evillene, Dawnn Lewis as Addaperle, Joshua Henry as the Tinman, James Monroe Iglehart as the Lion and Christian White as the Scarecrow.

The ensemble comprises Raymond Bennett, Tanya Birl, Darlesia Cearcy, Asmeret Ghebremichael, Angela Grovey, Ebony Haswell, Lauren Lim Jackson, Carl Lation, Maurice Lauchner, Jennifer Locke, Amy McClendon, Kenna Morris, John Eric Parker, Herman Payne, Ryan Rankine, Levensky Smith, Ephraim Sykes, Adrienne Warren, Daniel J. Watts, Juson Williams and Will Wingfield.

As Ashanti makes her way through the Emerald City, she will be accompanied by Nigel, who plays Toto.

Nigel, according to press notes, "was born in Arkansas almost 20 months ago. Life was not easy for the 15-pound pup, who was abandoned on the street before finding haven with the Northeast Arkansas Humane Society. . . Nigel was discovered on the Humane Society's website by Bill Berloni, award-winning theatrical animal trainer and Director of Animal behavior for the Humane Society of New York, who was looking for just the right dog to play Toto." The Wiz has scenic design by David Korins, costume design by Paul Tazewell, lighting by Ken Billington and sound by ACME Sound Partners.

William F. Brown wrote the book for the soulful contemporary retelling of L. Frank Baum's "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz." The Wiz also features music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls. The original 1974 production, directed by Geoffrey Holder and choreographed by George Faison, won seven Tony Awards including Best Musical. The premiere Broadway company featured Hinton Battle, Tiger Haynes, Stephanie Mills, Ted Ross, Dee Dee Bridgewater, André De Shields and Mabel King.

For tickets, phone (212) 581-1212, or visit CityCenter. City Center is located at West 55th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues.

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Passing Strange's Colman Domingo will replace Orlando Jones in the title role of The Wiz for the final six performances. Domingo will begin performances June 29 and stay with the production through its closing on July 5. Jones is leaving the show early in order to shoot his new series "Crash Course" for ABC-TV.

(back:) Joshua Henry, Christian White, Orlando Jones, (sitting:) James Monroe Iglehart (front), LaChanze, Ashanti and Nigel, Dawnn Lewis and Tichina Arnold
(back:) Joshua Henry, Christian White, Orlando Jones, (sitting:) James Monroe Iglehart (front), LaChanze, Ashanti and Nigel, Dawnn Lewis and Tichina Arnold