The cast of the pre-Broadway touring revival of The Wiz stopped by the Tamron Hall Show October 31 for her Hall-O-Ween Extravaganza, giving many a first look at the new revival of the Wizard of Oz musical. Newcomer Nichelle Lewis, starring as Dorothy, sang one of the production's most unique inclusions, "Wonder, Wonder Why." Watch above.
The song was not part of the 1975 original production, being added for a 1984 national tour that itself also played a brief Broadway run. Original Dorothy Stephanie Mills reprised her performance for this production, introducing the new song. The tune comes as Dorothy and her friends have been captured by Evillene, The Wiz's Wicked Witch of the West. If you're familiar with the 1939 MGM movie musical version of L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz, the song more or less mirrors the famously cut "Over the Rainbow (Reprise)." Lewis' performance on The Tamron Hall Show is the song's first official recording.
And it's one of several special song inclusions in this new production of The Wiz, at least for the first few stops on the revival's pre-Broadway tour. For the first time in a major American stage production, "You Can't Win" has been added to the song list. Originally cut from the stage production during pre-Broadway tryouts and written to be sung by Evillene's Winkies to Dorothy, the song was resurrected for the musical's 1978 film adaptation. It must have been viewed as a better fit for the vocal abilities of Michael Jackson, who starred as the Scarecrow. The song was shifted to replace the character's stage song "I Was Born On the Day Before Yesterday." That song has not been fully excised from the touring revival, however. Newly arranged to focus on the sentiment of its chorus, the song is included under the title "We're Gonna Make It," sung by Dorothy and her compatriots as they leave the Emerald City to kill Evillene.
Along with Lewis, the cast is led by Deborah Cox as Glinda, Melody A. Betts as Aunt Em and Evillene, 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 stars in the title role for select stops on the tour and the Broadway run, with Kinky Boots' Alan Mingo Jr. handling the role for the rest of the tour.
Williams is leading a creative team that also includes 2023 Tony Award nominee Amber Ruffin, who has penned 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 is providing music supervision, orchestrations, and arrangements, with dance arrangements by Adam Blackstone, scenic design by Hannah Beachler, costume design by Sharen Davis, lighting design by Ryan J. O'Gara, projection design by Daniel Brodie, 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.
For a full itinerary, visit WizMusical.com.