The Wiz is making its anticipated return to Broadway, five decades after its original run and fans couldn’t be more excited.

Ahead of the Broadway debut at the Marquis Theatre on March 29 in New York, the Tony-award-winning show hit the road for a 12-city pre-Broadway tour. The first performance was at the Baltimore Hippodrome Theatre, located in the same city where the original production 1974‘s world premiere happened, last September.

On Feb. 14, the red carpet was rolled out to commemorate the opening night of the L.A. tour stop, the last city on the road before taking off to their final destination. Celebrities and industry creatives like Sheryl Lee Ralph, Lena Waithe, Erika Alexander, Gina Torres, Cynthia Erivo, Tamala Jones, A.J. Johnson, David Talbert, and more came out to rally around it. Of course, the cast and crew made a grand appearance as they celebrated their hard work and took a moment to talk with Blavity’s Shadow and Act about the soulful musical that embodied the essence of Black culture.

The main cast for the revived adaptation includes Nichelle Lewis (Dorothy), Wayne Brady (The Wiz), Deborah Cox (Glinda), Melody A. Betts (Aunt Em/Evillene), Kyle Ramar Freeman (The Lion), Phillip Johnson Richardson (Tinman), Avery Wilson (Scarecrow) and Alan Mingo Jr. (The Wiz Standby). The showcase is being supported and produced by Kristin Caskey, Mike Isaacson, Brian Anthony Moreland, Ambassador Theatre Group, Kandi Burruss and Todd Tucker.


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Updates to the script led by comedian and writer Amber Ruffin added a fun modern twist to The Wiz are witty and relatable without changing what fans love about the theater and movie versions of it, which is one of the things the producers and director Schele Williams have loved most about seeing it come to life.

“It exceeded my expectations because when you’re a part of a show everybody, like a lot of people have seen the Broadway version, but everybody’s seen the movie too, so we knew we were going to get a lot of comparisons,” Burruss said. “So, you know we wanted to make sure that the people that we cast in the show were going to be above and beyond amazing, which they are.”

Photo: Unique Nicole/Getty Images

“Casting this show was the greatest blessing in the world,” Schele Williams agreed. “As a director, to have this incredible cast with this enormous talent come into the room and tell the story every day is absolutely the greatest gift.”

In addition to the cast’s outstanding vocals and song arrangements by Allen René Louis, the set designs created by Hannah Beachler, the beautifully detailed costumes designed by Sharen Davis, the bold and diverse range of choreography led by Jaquel Knight, and more by an array of behind-the-scenes members kept the audience engaged throughout the entire show, leaving the theater filled with happiness and amazement.

“This is something that’s going to take Broadway by storm,” Brady told us. “I was happy to just be… I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll be The Wiz, the caterer, or I’ll help clean up,” because I want to be a part of this. This is going to be something that folks will talk about because we don’t get a lot of these moments in a space like Broadway.”

“I feel so happy to be in a show that’s Black and celebrating Blackness and beauty and community and love,” Freeman said. “Nothing feels better than getting on this stage with the people I get to work with and telling this story. I think it’s a timeless story and every generation can take something from [it].”

Let’s ease on down memory lane, shall we? On Jan. 5, 1975, Ken Harper, William F. Brown, and Charlie Smalls’ theater adaption of The Wizard of Oz by L. FRANK BAUM​ opened at the Majestic Theatre with Hinton Battle (Scarescrow), Stephanie Mills (Dorothy), Ted Ross (The Lion), and Tiger Haynes (Tinman).

It had a tough start but things quickly turned around after word spread about the show, which became one of Broadway’s most adored musicals, according to The original concept was nominated for eight Tony nominations and won seven including Best Musical after its breakout introduction. The cast hit the stage 1,672 performances before it concluded in January of 1979.

The stage production was such a movement in itself that a cinema version sparked from it. The film adaptation was released three years later in 1978 and featured Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell, Ted Ross, Mabel King, Lena Horne, Richard Pryor and more. The movie elevated the historical musical to become like a cult film in Black culture.

“I love the opportunity to sing this classic music,” Cox said. “You know these songs…when Lena Horne did ‘Believe In Yourself’ it really moved me. It had a huge impact on me because it’s really a classic and her incredible stardom and the essence of her, the spirit of her, and the energy of her and this music…I’ve tried to implement [it]. The music, I mean it’s really telling just how transcendent the songs are. The songs were written in the early 70s and they are timeless.”

“This is such an unforgettable experience for me. I don’t really have the proper words to put into that…so many amazing people, not just Michael Jackson, rest in peace Hinton Battle who just passed, [a] Broadway legend [who] also played this role,” Avery Wilson, who plays the Scarecrow, said as he shared his excitement to make his Broadway debut. “And I just really want to do what they did for me, which was create a space for someone that’s young and black to come in and imagine and show their creativity and show their joy onscreen and onstage and be fearless.”

With a majority Black cast and crew, many of the staff share the same sentiments about how great it is to be a part of The Wiz because it showcases the array of gifts the Black community has, proving they aren’t a monolith and have an abundance to offer.

Betts said as an entertainer she hopes, “We are being allowed to be free to tell the stories that make sense for us in our way without somebody trying to like manage it or like hinder it in any way.”

“Everything I sort of do I’m all about how can I impact culture, shake up culture, eff it up again, and then put it back together,” Knight said with a laugh. “You know, disrupt in a positive way. And with this show, I feel it does just that.”

It seems that hopes for the show have come true because from Baltimore to Cleveland to Washington D.C. to Pittsburgh to Charlotte to Greenville to Atlanta to Chicago to Des Moines to Tempe to San Diego and now L.A., critics and Broadway fans have given the new adaption raving reviews.

“Y’all blew us away. So strong and captivating! Thank you thank you! The best Valentines Day 🔥❤,” an audience member said regarding LA’s opening night.

“Amazing show & Phenomenal cast!! 🙌🏾 Thank You for blessing San Diego!!! 🫶🏾,” another wrote.

“Phenomenal Show 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾 What a surprise treat to attend the opening night! When I tell you, I was impressed! OMG, The stage production, costumes, styling, casting, technology, singing, choreography and acting were all on POINT! I see why this musical won a Tony Award! The Wiz and the Wizard of OZ are in my top all time favorite movies and this was an excellent rendition that gave what it was suppose to give and more. @averywilson @deborahcox ATE 🔥🔥🔥,” a fan who saw the Tempe, AZ show commented.

Burruss expressed the joy she’s had from seeing the overwhelming support the play has received from the public with sold-out shows.

“To have us all come together and be able to put this production on, it really has fed my spirit, you know what I mean? Like for me it’s always a thing I’m trying to figure out in every lane I’m trying to get in [is], ‘How can I open a door for us as African Americans,'” Burrus said. “And so to see this show be successful…we’ve been getting great feedback…and I am just so thankful and grateful for everybody who has been supporting by coming out to see it.”