Tuesday, July 25, 2006
The Wiz Cast Set to Ease On Down the Road
A great cast has been announced for Des McAnuff's upcoming reimagining of The Wiz at the La Jolla Playhouse in California. The Wiz will begin easing its way down the road on September 26 with an October 8 opening at La Jolla's Mandell Weiss Theatre.
David Alan Grier, perhaps best known for his ensemble role on television's "In Living Color," takes on the titular role. Wayne Brady, whose many turns as Billy Flynn in Broadway's Chicago has earned him much-deserved acclaim, will portray the Scarecrow. Michael Benjamin Washington, who was one of the best things about the recent Broadway revival of La Cage Aux Folles, will star as the Tinman.
Rounding out the leading roles will be Nikki M. James (All Shook Up) as Dorothy, Titus Burgess (Jersey Boys) as the Lion, E. Faye Butler as Evillene (the wicked witch) and Valarie Pettiford (Tony nominated for Fosse) as Glinda. For the first time, a human will take on the role of Toto -- dancer Albert Blaise takes on the role in the tuner by Charlie Smalls and William F. Brown.
Aside from a very brief Broadway revival in 1984 with just 13 performances, it's been 27 years since the Great White Way truly experienced the groundbreaking, all-black version of the beloved L. Frank Baum classic, "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz." The original version of The Wiz won the 1975 Tony for Best Musical, along with awards for Best Book (Brown), Best Original Score, Best Featured Actor in a Musical (the late Ted Ross), Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Dee Dee Bridgewater), Best Costume Design (Geoffrey Holder), Best Choreography (George Faison), and Best Direction of a Musical (Holder). The Wiz was such a success that it lasted an amazing 1672 performances before closing in January, 1979.
If McAnuff's track record is any indication, it's quite likely that this version of The Wiz may itself be on the road to a Broadway berth. It would make quite a unique bookend to the other Baum-based musical currently reigning at the Gershwin Theatre: Wicked.
This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).
Click here for tickets.