A Broadway musical of the 70s, an adaptation of The Wizard of Oz with an all-black cast and a rhythm and blues score. It was a big hit (but so is Sir Andrew's crap), and it launched the career of the great singer Stephanie Mills. Motown Records produced a film version, with Diana Ross (age: about 40) replacing Mills in the role of Dorothy. The pre-op Michael Jackson was the scarecrow. The guy can dance. Sidney Lumet directed. I forgave him.

The Wiz! The Stars! The Music! Wow!

A soul-music (Rhythm and Blues) adaptation of the classic L. Frank Baum story, The Wizard of Oz, The Wiz tells the story of a young African-American kindergarten teacher who has never really left her own neighbourhood, until she chases her dog into a snowstorm and is swept up by a cyclone into an urban fantasyland known as Oz. Written by William F. Brown, with music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls, the musical opened at the Majestic Theatre on January 5, 1975, and ran for an amazing 1,672 performances. The film rights were then purchased by Motown, which produced the film in 1978 for a (then) astounding cost of over $30 million dollars (more than three times the original budget).

An allegory of the triumphs and tribulations of black America, the show attempts to prove that any challenge can be overcome with love and understanding, and believing in yourself.

The Broadway cast included Tiger Haynes as Tin Man, Ted Ross as Lion, Hinton Battle as Scarecrow, Stephanie Mills as Dorothy, Clarice Taylor, Mabel King as the Witch, Andre De Shields, Tasha Thomas & DeeDee Bridgewater, and was directed by Geoffrey Holder and choreographed by George Faison.

Broadway numbers:

  • The Feeling We Once Had
  • Tornado
  • He's The Wizard
  • Soon As I Get Home
  • I Was Born On The Day Before Yesterday
  • Ease On Down The Road
  • Slide Some Oil To Me
  • I'm A Mean Ole Lion
  • Be A Lion
  • So You Wanted To See The Wizard
  • What Would I Do If I Could Feel
  • Don't Nobody Bring Me No Bad News
  • Everybody Rejoice
  • Y'All Got It!
  • If You Believe

Although an astonishing hit on Broadway, the film bombed, failing to capture the audience that had turned it into such a stage success. Despite this, the costumes and visuals are spectacular, and the score is engaging and energetic. (There are about twice the number of large-scale production numbers that were in the Wizard of Oz.)

The movie starred Diana Ross as Dorothy, a young Michael Jackson as Scarecrow, the hilarious Nipsey Russell as Tinman, Ted Ross as Fleetwood Coupe de Ville (Lion), and Mabel King as the wicked witch / sweatshop tyrant, Evillene. The fabulous Lena Horne makes a wonderful Glinda the Good and a slightly demented Richard Pryor plays The Wiz (Herman Smith). It was directed by Sidney Lumet.

Movie Numbers:

  • Main title (Overture, part one)
  • Overture (part two)
  • The Feeling That We Have (Sung by Theresa Merrit)
  • Can I Go On?
  • Glinda's theme
  • He's The Wizard (Sung by Thelma Carpenter & The Munchkins)
  • Soon As I Get Home/Home
  • You Can't Win (Sung by Michael Jackson)
  • Ease On Down The Road #1 (Duet with Michael Jackson)
  • What Would I Do If I Could Feel (Sung by Nipsey Russel & Carousel Girls)
  • Slide Some Oil To Me (Sung by Nipsey Russel & The Dixieland Band)
  • Ease On Down The Road #2 (Duet with Michael Jackson & Nipsey Russel)
  • (I'm A) Mean Ole Lion
  • Ease On Down The Road #3 (Duet with Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russel & Ted Ross)
  • Poppy Girls
  • Be A Lion
  • End Of The Yellow Brick Road
  • Emerald City Sequence (Sung by The Emerald City Citizens & Richard Pryor)
       a) Green
       b) Red
       c) Gold
  • So You Wanted To See The Wizard
  • Is This What Feeling Gets? (Dorothy's Theme)
  • Don't Nobody Bring Me No Bad News (Sung by Mabel King & The Winkies)
  • A Brand New Day (Everybody Rejoice) (Duet with Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russel & Ted Ross)
  • Believe In Yourself
  • The Good Witch Glinda
  • Believe In Yourself (Reprise) (Sung by Lena Horne)
  • Home

Although it was a box-office failure, the movie is still a fun one to watch, and holds a well-deserved place in American culture.


Sources:
IMDB - http://us.imdb.com/Title?0078504
All Movie Guide - http://www.allmovie.com/cg/avg.dll?p=avg&sql=A55009
Musical Heaven - http://www.musicalheaven.com/w/Wiz_The.shtml

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