The Wiz Returns To Broadway After Nearly 50 Years

The Wiz
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – APRIL 17: (L-R) Phillip Johnson Richardson, Nichelle Lewis, Avery Wilson and Kyle Ramar Freeman pose onstage at the broadway opening night of “The Wiz” at Marquee Theatre on April 17, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

On Wednesday (April 17), The Wiz celebrated its return to Broadway after 50 years.

The Wiz officially opened at Broadway’s Marquis Theatre after capping off a pre-Broadway tour that began last year. Schele Williams is at the helm of production and JaQuel Knight is leading choreography.

This version of The Wiz features Nichelle Lewis as Dorothy, Wayne Brady as The Wiz, Deborah Cox as Glinda, Melody A. Betts as Aunt Em, Evillene, Kyle Ramar Freeman as Lion, Phillip Johnson Richardson as Tin Man and Avery Wilson as Scarecrow.

The Wiz, featuring a score by Charlie Smalls and a book by William F. Brown, originally premiered on Broadway in 1975. The original production transformed L.Frank Baum’s classic (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz) into an all-Black “super-soul musical.” Blending gospel and R&B, the show became a cornerstone in Black culture. Besides making Stephanie Mills a star, The Wiz won seven Tonys in 1975, including Best Musical.

“I just wanted it to be more dangerous.”

The classic musical has been revived many times since it’s opening. It later hit living rooms when it became a 1978 movie. The Motown film adaptation starred Diana Ross as Dorothy, Michael Jackson as Scarecrow, Nipsey Russell as the Tin Man and Theodore Ross Roberts as the Lion.

While the new version weaves in many elements from the original, one cast member that is missing is Toto. Williams believed that Dorothy would be pushed out of her comfort zone without her iconic pup by her side. “When we think of a dog, [we] think about a companion — someone that allows you to feel safe,” said Williams. “I just wanted it to be more dangerous. I wanted her to have nothing and have to seek out friendships.”

This new revival features additional material by 2023 Tony Award nominee Amber Ruffin, making The Wiz her second theatrical endeavor. “I love a message musical,” Ruffin said. “I want to give something that audiences can hold onto and come back to throughout their lives. That will inspire them.”

As in the original production, the musical’s song list includes “The Emerald City” with music by Timothy Graphenreed and “Everybody Rejoice,” with music and lyrics by Luther Vandross.

Also included are the Charlie Smalls-penned songs “You Can’t Win,” cut from the original production but used in the 1978 film adaptation; “Wonder, Wonder Why,” added to the score for the show’s 1984 revival; and “We’re Gonna Make It,” a new adaptation of the original score’s “I Was Born on the Day Before Yesterday” (replaced in its original spot by “You Can’t Win”).