An all-new production of The Wiz, directed by Schele Williams and choreographed by Jaquel Knight, will play a national tour before hitting Broadway for a limited engagement in spring 2024, with dates and a theatre to be announced. Adapted from L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz with a score by Charlie Smalls and a book by William F. Brown, the musical has not been seen on the Main Stem since a short-lived 1984 revival.
Also on the creative team is Amber Ruffin, who will provide additional material. The gig is Ruffin's second theatrical outing, following her work co-writing the book to Broadway's current Some Like It Hot with Matthew Lopez. Joseph Joubert will provide music supervision, orchestrations, and arrangements.
The tour is set to launch in fall 2023 at Baltimore, Maryland's Hippodrome Theatre, where the musical originally made its pre-Broadway world premiere in 1974.
"I wouldn’t be on Broadway if it wasn’t for The Wiz…the music, the costumes, the choreography, and Stephanie Mills!," gushes Williams in a statement. "Seeing that show changed my life. It is, in every way, a celebration of Black excellence. I am honored to helm this production, and I can’t think of a better time to tell this story."
"It is a dream come true to be a part of what I consider the epitome of Black excellence," adds Knight, who will make his Broadway debut with the revival. "There’s not one piece of art that has had influence on popular culture like The Wiz. I’m humbled to not only have the opportunity to leave my own mark on a true work of art, but to continue the storytelling and legacy building on the beauty of blackness through dance, movement, and attitude. I’m honored to stand on the backs of those greats who’ve opened this door, such as the Louis Johnson and George Faison; and I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to help show kids who look like me that the Theatre is a world where they can see themselves."
The Wiz premiered on Broadway in 1975, transforming 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, Ted 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.