'The Wiz' to return to Broadway after national tour

The logo for the new production of "The Wiz." (Courtesy of the Ambassador Theatre Group)

A new production of "The Wiz" is heading out on a national tour in 2023 before following the yellow brick road to Broadway in 2024.

Director Schele Williams, who will make her Broadway debut with the production, told The Associated Press that she hopes the show becomes a "touchstone for a new generation." Williams said the musical is very personal for her because it created 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.' I'm really excited to awaken those dreams in other little Black girls like me," Williams told the AP. "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."

Based on L. Frank Baum's "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," "The Wiz" debuted on Broadway in 1975 and went on to win seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Original Score. The songs "Ease on Down the Road" and "What Would I Do If I Could Feel" became classics. That original production put on 1,672 performances over four years.

The new production will feature a book by William F. Brown and that Tony Award-winning score by Charlie Smalls and others. It will be choreographed by Jaquel Knight and include additional material by Amber Ruffin. The music supervision, orchestrations, and music arrangements will be by Joseph Joubert.

"I am thrilled my father's music and 'The Wiz' is returning to Broadway," Michael Smalls, son of composer Charlie Smalls, said in a statement. "I am so happy to know a new generation will be discovering these wonderful songs and learn of my father's extraordinary talent."

In a statement, Knight called the show the "epitome of black excellence."

"There's not one piece of art that has had influence on popular culture like 'The Wiz'," Knight said. "I'm humbled to not only have the opportunity to leave my own mark on a true work of art, but to continue the storytelling and legacy building on the beauty of blackness through dance, movement, and attitude."

The tour will launch in the fall in Baltimore, where the musical had its world premiere in 1974. The production will then tour the country and conclude with a limited engagement on Broadway in spring 2024.

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.\

With The Associated Press.