Days before the Broadway-bound revival tour of The Wiz is set to launch at Baltimore's Hippodrome Theatre, the production has added a Grammy- and Emmy-winning heavy hitter to its creative team: Adam Blackstone. The songwriter/producer/music director to such powerhouses as Nicki Minaj and Justin Timberlake, will serve as the show's dance music arranger.
The tour is set to launch from Baltimore's Hippodrome Theatre beginning September 23. Schele Williams is directing the new production with choreography by JaQuel Knight.
"Joining The Wiz's creative team has been a very surreal moment. I remember watching the film on VHS daily for years, wondering how it sounded so incredible, how [Michael Jackson] transformed into the Scarecrow, and the score and orchestrations truly told a story all of its own," said Blackstone in a statement. "Fast forward to today, I get to musically partner with Terence Vaughn and reunite with my brother, super choreographer and creative director JaQuel Knight, and explore our own interpretation for a revival of this masterpiece. I am excited and look forward to this body of work changing lives, just like it did for me in the '80s!"
But Blackstone isn't completely deleting the original production's dance music. According to production notes, original dance arranger Timothy Graphenreed's "Emerald City Ballet (Pssst)" is still being used.
Blackstone won a 2022 Emmy Award for Outstanding Music Direction for his work on The Pepsi Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show Starring Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, and 50 Cent. He was a 2023 Grammy nominee for Best Traditional R&B Performance for "'Round Midnight" featuring Jazmine Sullivan, and received his first nomination at the 2008 Grammys as a co-writer on Musiq Soulchild's "Teachme," in the Best R&B Song category.
He joins a previously announced cast that includes newcomer Nichelle Lewis as Dorothy, Grammy nominee and Broadway alum Deborah Cox as Glinda, Melody A. Betts as Aunt Em and Evillene (The Wiz's Wicked Witch of the West), Kyle Ramar Freeman (A Strange Loop) as the Lion, Phillip Johnson Richardson (Sharper) as the Tinman, and Avery Wilson (The Voice) as the Scarecrow. Wayne Brady will star in the title role for selected stops on the tour and the Broadway run, with Kinky Boots' Alan Mingo Jr. handling the role for the rest of the tour.
The ensemble will comprise Maya Bowles, Shayla Alayre Caldwell, Jay Copeland, Allyson Kaye Daniel, Judith Franklin, Michael Samarie George, Collin Heyward, Amber Jackson, Olivia Jackson, Christina Jones, Polanco Jones, Kolby Kindle, Mariah Lyttle, Kareem Marsh, Anthony Murphy, Cristina Rae, Matthew Sims Jr, Avilon Trust Tate, and Keenan D. Washington.
Williams is leading a creative team that also includes 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, sound design by Jon Weston, and wig design by Charles G. LaPointe. Casting is by Tara Rubin Casting.
The Wiz premiered on Broadway in 1975, transforming L. Frank 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.
For a full itinerary of the upcoming tour, visit WizMusical.com.