Broadway-Bound Revival of The Wiz Looking at 2005; Book to Be Updated

News   Broadway-Bound Revival of The Wiz Looking at 2005; Book to Be Updated
The Wiz, the 1975 musical which retold L. Frank Baum's classic fairy tale "The Wizard of Oz" with an African-American cast and a rhythm-and-blues-flavored score, is now looking at a 2005 arrival in New York.

When Playbill On-Line first broke the story about the new Wiz on April 11, 2003, the project was hoping to reach Broadway during the 2003-04 season.

As previously reported, Dodger Theatricals will produce the production, with Des McAnuff directing. McAnuff told Variety Feb. 23 that the cast will be interracial. Librettist William F. Brown, meanwhile, said he would update his book, which was originally set in the 1970s, the decade in which the show premiered. "It makes sense to keep it contemporary," he said. Charlie Smalls wrote the musical's score.

McAnuff, who directed The Who's Tommy and How to Succeed... on Broadway, plans an environmental production, which will lend the entire theatre an Oz-like atmosphere. A post-Broadway tour is projected.

The Wiz opened at the Majestic Theatre on Jan. 5, 1975. Lukewarm reviews almost closed it immediately afterwards, but producer Ken Harper convinced investor 20th Century Fox to sink money into a television advertising campaign. The TV spot, as well as positive word of mouth, quickly turned the show into a hit which would run for 1,672 performances. It won the 1975 Tony Award for Best Musical and made a star out of its Dorothy, Stephanie Mills.

Also in the cast were Hinton Battle as the Scarecrow, Tiger Haynes as the Tin Man, Ted Ross as the Cowardly Lion, Andre De Shields as the Wizard, Mabel King as Evilline, Dee Dee Bridgewater as Glinda and a young Phylicia Rashad as a munchkin. Ross and Bridgewater won Tonys, as did director Geoffrey Holder, choreographer George Faison and composer-lyricist Charlie Smalls. Among the songs to work their way into the public consciousness were "Ease on Down the Road" and "Home." Touring revivals of the show came to Broadway in 1984 and 1993.

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