00048: THE WIZ REVIVAL 2024

I recently attended the Broadway Bound production of THE WIZ, and let me tell you it was a spiritual experience to say the least. The Wiz was originally produced on Broadway back in 1975, and like today’s revival, it had a pre-Broadway run in 1974. 

After its Broadway debut in 1975, where it won 7 TONY awards, including best musical, The Wiz was made into a film (that flopped) in 1978, then came the first revival in 1984, then a live TV staged version (The Wiz Live!) in 2015. There was even an Encores! production at the New York City Center in 2019, and this 2023-2024 pre-Broadway tour is the official second revival of the show. 

The production I saw took place at the Golden Theater in San Francisco on a Saturday afternoon on February 3, 2024. And unfortunately, because it was a matinee, I did not get to see Wayne Brady as “the wiz,” Still the show I saw was a great production, with good acting and outstanding singing. The costumes were, for the most part, beautiful and well done, except for the costumes for the Dorothy’s three friends. Those costumes need a complete make over because they look trashy. The lighting was spectacular, while the sets were a mix of very good and okay. And the background projections were spectacular.

If you don’t know anything about The Wiz, the show is basically the same story of “The Wizard of Oz” but within the context of contemporary African American culture. And because of such retelling, the show can be modernized to fit the context of today’s African American culture. 

Granted. I had never seen the show but simply by listening to the cast recording of the original Broadway production, I can feel its 70’s vibes, and while watching the new revival, heading to Broadway in just a few weeks, I felt its 2000’s vibes too. This is, in fact one of the reasons why I like the show so much. 

Despite not being part of the culture, I was able to appreciate and connect with the many things the characters did and said, as well as with the different types of dancing styles that were shown throughout the production. African dance, vogue, twerking, etc. 

One of the most memorable experiences for me, is the fact that, as the many different characters sang their songs, I felt compelled to snap my fingers in the middle of a song, or emit short sounds of approval/agreement with what was going on stage. Many times, like many other audiences members, I felt I was connecting with the characters and their words, their songs, their attitudes, their actions and reactions, and their body language. 

The singing was so powerful that at times I felt the actors on stage were competing against each other to see who could sing the loudest, hit the highest note, or even received the loudest reaction from the audience. And all of this, mind you, without being disruptive or taking away from the production. The entire cast, especially the ensemble was sassy and everyone’s delivery, stage presence, and acting style reminded me of an article I read about “Black Acting Methods,” bringing everything to a full circle and finally making me understand the meaning of such article.

Unlike other productions, where I found myself annoyed at audience uninvited participation, the production of The Wiz, opened the door for a communion between the actors on stage and the audience. I, for the first time in a very long time, felt invited to become part of what was going on stage, without even moving from my seat. 

And yes, I’m very aware this new revival is filled with controversy, from people who don’t like the show because of its modernization and people ‘hating’ on the show because it uses AI to replace the set, to the mistreatment of cast members and dislike of the director because, in their own words, “he sucks.” 

Despite all such negativity, I liked this production of The Wiz, and unlike other shows were the choreography and dancing, and even the singing feels out of place, in this show, everything just clicked and truly brought me into communion, not only with the cast, but with the audience. This is something barely seen in theatre nowadays. 

All Material and Images are copyright © 2024 carlos-manuel

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