Rehearsals began August 14 for the Broadway-bound touring revival of The Wiz, set to launch at Baltimore, Maryland's Hippodrome Theatre September 23. Schele Williams is directing the new production with choreography by JaQuel Knight.
Director Williams marked the first day of rehearsal with an emotional speech, saying, “You are our dream come true. When you walk into the space, I want you to know that you belong here. I want you to take up space. I want you to be bold. I want you to be brave and fearless in exuding your Black excellence.” Watch more from the rehearsal in the video above and the photos below.
As previously reported, newcomer Nichelle Lewis will star as Dorothy. The actor, who hails from Virginia, was discovered via a TikTok video (watch her performance here) and selected from more than 2,000 submissions for the role.
The starry company also includes Grammy nominee and Broadway alum Deborah Cox as Glinda, Melody A. Betts as Aunt Em and Evillene (The Wiz's Wicked Witch of the West), Kyle Ramar Freeman (A Strange Loop) as the Lion, Phillip Johnson Richardson (Sharper) as the Tinman, and Avery Wilson (The Voice) as the Scarecrow. Wayne Brady will star in the title role for selected stops on the tour and the Broadway run, with Kinky Boots' Alan Mingo Jr. handling the role for the rest of the tour.
The ensemble will comprise Maya Bowles, Shayla Alayre Caldwell, Jay Copeland, Allyson Kaye Daniel, Judith Franklin, Michael Samarie George, Collin Heyward, Amber Jackson, Olivia Jackson, Christina Jones, Polanco Jones, Kolby Kindle, Mariah Lyttle, Kareem Marsh, Anthony Murphy, Cristina Rae, Matthew Sims Jr, Avilon Trust Tate, and Keenan D. Washington.
Williams is leading a creative team that also includes 2023 Tony Award nominee Amber Ruffin, who will provide additional material. The gig is Ruffin's second theatrical outing, following her work co-writing the Tony-nominated book to Broadway's current Some Like It Hot with Matthew López. Joseph Joubert will provide music supervision, orchestrations, and arrangements, with scenic design by Hannah Beachler, costume design by Sharen Davis, lighting design by Ryan J. O'Gara, sound design by Jon Weston, and wig design by Charles G. LaPointe. Casting is by Tara Rubin Casting.
The Wiz premiered on Broadway in 1975, transforming L. Frank Baum's classic children's novel into an all-Black "super soul musical," as it was originally billed. A surprise hit of the season, the musical won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Score, Featured Actor in a Musical (Ted Ross), Featured Actress in a Musical (Dee Dee Bridgewater), Choreography (George Faison), and Direction of a Musical and Costume Design (both Geoffrey Holder). The score's "Ease On Down the Road" and "Home" became breakout hits, and original star Stephanie Mills was propelled into stardom. The musical made the jump to the big screen in 1978 with a film adaptation starring Diana Ross, Lena Horne, Richard Pryor, Michael Jackson, and, reprising his Broadway performance as the Cowardly Lion, Ross.
The musical got the live TV treatment via NBC in 2015, a production that was initially announced as being Broadway bound following the television premiere. That revival, which would have been produced by Neil Meron and the late Craig Zadan, never materialized.
For a full itinerary of the upcoming tour, visit WizMusical.com.