New version of The Wiz to tour and conclude on Broadway

NEW YORK — A new production of “The Wiz” takes a national tour next year before following the yellow brick road to Broadway as the director hopes the show will become “a touchstone for a new generation.”

Director Schele Williams tells the Associated Press that this is a very personal musical to him, and when he sees it, he opens up possibilities in his mind as a girl.

“I was able to picture myself on Broadway for the first time. It was because of ‘The Wiz’.” said. “I’m really excited to be waking up these dreams in other little Black girls like me.”

The tour begins in the fall in Baltimore, home of the musical’s 1974 world premiere. After showing at the Hippodrome Theater in Baltimore, the tour will travel across the country before starting its limited Broadway debut in the spring of 2024.

“My goal with this show is to be an extraordinary celebration of Black culture, a touchstone for the next generation as it was for my generation,” Williams said.

The new show will be choreographed by JaQuel Knight, with music supervision, orchestrations and musical arrangements by Joseph Joubert.

The show is adapted from L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” a book by William F. Brown, with music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls.

“The Wiz” premiered on Broadway in 1975 and won seven Tones, including best musical. He has classic songs like “What I Would Do If I Could Feel” and “Ease On Down On The Road”.

“I don’t want ‘The Wiz’ to become something it’s not. But I’m excited that it will become a more timeless piece of music. So we’re going to look at where it’s coming from and how we’re going to do it while respecting the voice it had in the beginning,” Williams said.

He will make his Broadway directorial debut with “The Wiz.” Previously, he was the assistant director of “Motown: The Musical” and redesigned and directed the show’s final national tour. He is currently in London directing “Mandela,” a new musical inspired by the life of anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela.

A 1978 film version of “The Wiz” starred Diana Ross, Lena Horne, and Richard Pryor. Michael Jackson starred as the Scarecrow, Nipsey Russell as the Tin Man, and Ted Ross as the Lion. NBC televised a live version with Queen Latifah, Ne-Yo, and David Alan Grier in 2015.

The original Broadway production starred Stephanie Mills as Dorothy, Dee Dee Bridgewater as the good witch Glinda, and Andre De Shields as Wiz. Mills returned as Dorothy in a revival in 1984.

“I’m super excited about everything as this is going to be a show my kids will enjoy. My daughters are 11 and 12 and this is going to be their show and I’m really excited about it,” said Williams.

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Mark Kennedy at: http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

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