NEW YORK — A new production of “The Wiz” is heading out on a national tour next year before following the yellow brick road to Broadway, with its director hoping the show becomes a “touchstone for a new generation.”
Director Schele Williams tells The Associated Press that it’s a very personal musical for her, creating possibilities in her mind as a girl when she saw it.
“It was the first time I was able to ever imagine myself on Broadway. It was because of ‘The Wiz.'” she said. “I’m really excited to awaken those dreams in other little Black girls like me.”
The tour launches in the fall in Baltimore, home of the 1974 world premiere of the musical. Following its run at the Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore, the tour will cross the country before it starts its limited engagement on Broadway in spring 2024.
“My goal with this show is for it to be an extraordinary celebration of Black culture, for it to be a touchstone for a new generation in the way that it was for my generation,” said Williams.
The new show will be choreographed by JaQuel Knight and music supervision, orchestrations and music arrangements are by Joseph Joubert.
The show was adapted from “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum, with a book by William F. Brown, and music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls.
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“The Wiz” opened on Broadway in 1975 and won seven Tonys, including best musical. It has such classic songs as “What Would I Do If I Could Feel” and “Ease On Down the Road.”
“I don’t want ‘The Wiz’ to become anything that it’s not. But I am excited for it to become a more timeless score. So we’re going to look at how do we do that while also honoring where it came from and the sound that it originally had,” said Williams.
She will be making her Broadway directorial debut with “The Wiz.” Previously, she was the associate director of “Motown: The Musical,” and re-conceived and directed the recent national tour of the show. She is currently in London directing “Mandela,” a new musical inspired by the life of anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela.
A 1978 movie version of “The Wiz” starred Diana Ross, Lena Horne and Richard Pryor. Michael Jackson co-starred as the Scarecrow, with Nipsey Russell as the Tin Man and Ted Ross as the Lion. NBC televised a live version in 2015 with Queen Latifah, Ne-Yo and David Alan Grier.
The original Broadway production featured Stephanie Mills as Dorothy, Dee Dee Bridgewater as good witch Glinda and Andre De Shields as the Wiz. Mills returned as Dorothy in a 1984 revival.
“I’m mostly excited more than anything that this is going to be a show that my kids are going to enjoy. My daughters are 11 and 12, and this is now going to be their show, and I’m really excited about that,” said Williams.