VINTAGE PLAYBILL: The Wiz, 1974
By Brynn Cox
On this date in 1975, The Wiz premiered on Broadway. The Playbill Vault marks the anniversary with a vintage Playbill from early in the show's run.
Producer Ken Harper conceived the new musical retelling of L. Frank Baum's classic children's book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Featuring a contemporary score, an urban sensibility, and all-black cast, The Wiz was a distinct departure from Broadway's typical fare.
The Wiz faced financial problems leading up to its Broadway opening. Faced with chilly reviews from major critics and poor advance sales, the production seemed doomed to an early closure. But the musical found its audience through powerful word of mouth and solidified its standing in the spring awards season.
The show went on to win seven of its eight Tony nominations, including awards for featured performers Ted Ross and Dee Dee Bridgewater and Best Musical of 1975. The production continued its run through 1979, playing 1,672 performances.
The original cast was led by 15-year-old Stephanie Mills as Dorothy and 18-year-old Hinton Battle, who made his Broadway debut as the Scarecrow. Phylicia Rashad (billed here as Phylicia Ayers-Allen) appeared in the ensemble.
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