Charlie Smalls' The Wiz is getting ready to "Ease on Down the Road" back to Broadway, but as previously announced will embark on a U.S. national tour first. The new production is set to be directed by Schele Williams, with choreography by Jaquel Knight. Adapted from L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz with a score by Smalls and a book by William F. Brown, the musical has not been seen on the Main Stem since a short-lived 1984 revival.
And, now, it has been reported where the production is headed before its Broadway return. The musical will launch from Baltimore, Maryland's Hippodrome Theatre September 26-30, with engagements following in Cleveland, Ohio; Washington, D.C.; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Charlotte, North Carolina; Atlanta, Georgia; Greenville, South Carolina; Chicago, Illinois; Des Moines, Iowa; Tempe, Arizona; San Diego, California; San Francisco, California; and Los Angeles, California. See the full itinerary at WizMusical.com.
Also on the creative team is 2023 Tony Award nominee Amber Ruffin, who will provide additional material. The gig is Ruffin's second theatrical outing, following her work co-writing the Tony-nominated book to Broadway's current Some Like It Hot with Matthew López. Joseph Joubert will provide music supervision, orchestrations, and arrangements, with scenic design by Hannah Beachler, costume design by Sharen Davis, lighting design by Ryan J. O'Gara, and wig design by Mia Neal.
The Wiz premiered on Broadway in 1975, transforming Baum's classic children's novel into an all-Black "super soul musical," as it was originally billed. A surprise hit of the season, the musical won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Score, Featured Actor in a Musical (Ted Ross), Featured Actress in a Musical (Dee Dee Bridgewater), Choreography (George Faison), and Direction of a Musical and Costume Design (both Geoffrey Holder). The score's "Ease On Down the Road" and "Home" became breakout hits, and original star Stephanie Mills was propelled into stardom. The musical made the jump to the big screen in 1978 with a film adaptation starring Diana Ross, Lena Horne, Richard Pryor, Michael Jackson, and, reprising his Broadway performance as the Cowardly Lion, Ross.
The musical got the live TV treatment via NBC in 2015, a production that was initially announced as being Broadway bound following the television premiere. That revival, which would have been produced by Neil Meron and the late Craig Zadan, never materialized.