Wayne Brady and David Alan Grier to Star in La Jolla Wiz | Playbill

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News Wayne Brady and David Alan Grier to Star in La Jolla Wiz Casting for the La Jolla Playhouse's production of The Wiz — directed by Jersey Boys' Des McAnuff — has been announced. Former talk-show host Wayne Brady and stage and screen star David Alan Grier will be among the cast.
Wayne Brady
Wayne Brady

Producers announced July 25 that Brady, who made his Broadway debut in Chicago, will play the Scarecrow, while Grier will star in the title role.

The cast will also include Nikki M. James (All Shook Up) as Dorothy, Titus Burgess (Jersey Boys) as the Lion, Michael Benjamin Washington (La Cage aux Folles) as the Tinman, 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," explained McAnuff about the new take. "This is modern Oz, with a modern look and modern sounds. It is a privilege to 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 will work with Harold Wheeler, who orchestrated the original Broadway production of The Wiz, on giving this version a more contemporary sound. An environmental set by Robert Brill will also be part of the show's new concept, which includes a dancer (Albert Blaise) rather than a dog in the role of Dorothy's beloved Toto.

The creative team will also feature Howell Binkley (lighting design), Sergio Trujillo (choreography) and Paul Tazewell (costume design). The "re-imagining" of the Charlie Smalls (score)-William F. Brown (book) musical The Wiz is scheduled to begin previews Sept. 26 in the Mandell Weiss Theatre. With an official opening Oct. 8, the limited and possibly Broadway-bound production will run through Nov. 12.

Wayne Brady is known for bursting into song as the host of the recent "The Wayne Brady Show" as well as for his improvisational skills on ABC's "Whose Line is it Anyway?" Brady has also made guest appearances on television's "I'll Fly Away," "Home Court," "In the Heat of the Night," "Chappelle's Show" and "American Dreams." His stage credits include productions of A Chorus Line, Fences, I'm Not Rappaport, A Raisin in the Sun and Blade to the Heat. Brady made his Broadway debut as slick lawyer Billy Flynn in Chicago.

David Alan Grier last appeared on Broadway in the lead role of Pseudolus in the revival of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. His Broadway debut came in the musical The First, as baseball great Jackie Robinson — which earned the actor a Tony nomination. The comedic actor is also known for his roles on television in "In Living Color," "Life With Bonnie" and in the films "The Woodsman," "15 Minutes," "Return to Me," "Jumanji," "Boomerang" and "Bewitched."

The Wiz opened at Broadway's Majestic Theatre Jan. 5, 1975, and later transferred to the Broadway Theatre. The musical closed Jan. 28, 1979, after playing 1,672 performances. The original cast included Hinton Battle as the Scarecrow, Tiger Haynes as the Tinman, Stephanie Mills as Dorothy, Ted Ross as the Lion, Dee Dee Bridgewater as Glinda, André De Shields as The Wiz, Mabel King as Evillene and Clarice Taylor as Addaperle. The Wiz won seven 1975 Tony Awards including Best Musical. A 1984 revival — also with Mills as Dorothy — managed only 13 performances at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre.

For more information visit www.lajollaplayhouse.com.

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