Billed as a "pre-Broadway engagement," the San Francisco Best of Broadway summer 2008 run of The Wiz was to build upon the production director Des McAnuff and collaborators began in fall 2006 at the La Jolla Playhouse.
Production spokespersons had no further details at this time and could not confirm whether the work would be part of the company's next season or resurface elsewhere.
The musical was replaced in the season by another "Broadway-bound" production, the American premiere of the new Irish musical Ha'Penny Bridge. That production is scheduled to play San Francisco's Golden Gate July 6-Aug. 10. (For more information on the Best of Broadway series, visit shnsf.com.)
Based on L. Frank Baum's "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," The Wiz features Charlie Smalls' score and William F. Brown's book. Des McAnuff staged the "re-imagining" of the work at La Jolla's Mandell Weiss Theatre, Sept. 26-Nov. 26, 2006.
David Alan Grier (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum) starred in the title role in the previous run of the musical. Nikki M. James (All Shook Up) appeared as Dorothy opposite Titus Burgess (Jersey Boys, The Little Mermaid) as the Lion, Rashad Naylor (Hairspray) as the Scarecrow, Michael Benjamin Washington (La Cage aux Folles) as the Tin Man, E. Faye Butler as the wicked witch Evillene, Orville Mendoza as Uncle Henry, Valarie Pettiford as Glinda and Aunt Em and Heather Lee as Addaperle. "Our production will reflect the shifts that have occurred in the dominant pop culture, in both music and theatre, since The Wiz's history-making Broadway debut in the 1970s," director McAnuff previously explained about. "This is modern Oz, with a modern look and modern sounds. It is a privilege working with such an esteemed company of actors as we head together into this great adventure. This promises to be an exciting ride for all of us!"
McAnuff worked with Harold Wheeler, orchestrator of the original Broadway production of The Wiz, to give the version a more contemporary sound. An environmental set by Robert Brill was also part of the show's new concept, which includes a dancer (Albert Blaise in La Jolla) rather than a dog in the role of Dorothy's beloved Toto.
The California creative team also included Paul Tazewell (costumes), Howell Binkley (lights), Peter Fitzgerald (sound) and Michael Clark (projections). Sergio Trujillo — who teamed with McAnuff on Jersey Boys — provided choreography. Ron Melrose was the music director and Frank Hartenstein the production stage manager. Dramaturgy was by Shirley Fishman.