On the Yellow Carpet: The Wiz Returns to Broadway to Tell an 'Authentically Black' Story | Playbill

Opening Night On the Yellow Carpet: The Wiz Returns to Broadway to Tell an 'Authentically Black' Story

Go inside opening night, where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Common, Sherri Shepherd, and Ben Platt and Noah Galvin were in attendance.

After six months on the road, the much-anticipated revival of The Wiz has landed on Broadway. The company celebrated an official opening April 17 by walking, of course, a yellow carpet outside the Marquis Theatre. Read the reviews here

While the mood was definitely ebullient, the company of The Wiz also felt a responsibility to honor the treasured musical and what it represents. A Motown retelling of The Wizard of Oz with a score by Charlie Smalls, the musical first hit Broadway in 1975. It was then, and is now, a celebration of Black culture. That was forefront on Phillip Johnson Richardson's mind on opening night. Richardson, who plays the pop-and-locking Tinman, shared: "I really wanted to accomplish being authentically Black on stage. That is something I worked really hard to do. Like even the way I walk, the way I say certain things—and it doesn't feel like it's a mockery of something. The fact that I can do that on stage—and not be villainized—it's beautiful."

That sense of self and harnessing the power within is one of the main themes of The Wiz. Pop star Deborah Cox was tapped to play Glinda the Good Witch for the revival. It's a musical that she believes in so much that she also signed on to co-produce the production. "I really wanted to be part of a legacy," she says. Cox's character Glinda has the show's big Act II anthem, "Believe in Yourself" and that's a message that the star herself has taken to heart: "[It's] the mantra that I've had to sing for myself for my whole life. It's always been about believing in myself. Had I not done that, I wouldn't be here."

Singer Avery Wilson, in his Broadway debut as the Scarecrow, takes that mantra one step further. "It's not just about the belief in yourself that matters," he says. "You have to know that whatever you feel like what you're missing, you already possess. That's what this show is about."

Comedian and Tony-nominated writer Amber Ruffin has retooled the book for this new production, keeping original book writer William F. Brown's story and structure, but updating the '70s references (and adding lots of jokes!). "When I found out I was gonna bring The Wiz back to Broadway, I only wanted to do one thing—I wanted to make The Wiz timeless so that everyone could enjoy this version forever," says Ruffin. 

And one cast member knows that the next generation is already taking in this new production and waiting in the wings for their turn on stage. Melody A. Betts, who is making her Broadway debut in the dual roles of Aunt Em and the Wicked Witch of the West Evillene, told us about the musical's influence on her as a young performer. "The way that The Wiz affected my life is part of the reason why I'm here. I feel like it is my responsibility to pay that forward, because somebody else will be in my place in a couple of years. So I need to do my absolute best to bring my full self, because somebody is watching me so they can do this next."

Buy your own copy of the limited edition official opening night Playbill for The Wiz at The Playbill Store.

For now, though, the cast is led by the young up-and-comer Nichelle Lewis, who was discovered in a nationwide search via a TikTok video. Opening night for the new star was both exhilarating and nerve-wracking, but she handled it all with a huge smile on her face. "I've always said I wanted to bring joy to people. I've always just wanted to spread joy and love. So to be able to be up here doing that every single night, that's all I could ask for," she says. 

But leave it to The Lion to give us a laugh as he struts by. When asked how he was feeling, Kyle Ramar Freeman answered, "Tired. Somebody get me an espresso martini."

See these moments from the yellow carpet in the video below.

The cast of The Wiz also includes Wayne Brady as The Wiz, Allyson Kaye Daniel as Addaperle, Anthony Murphy as Lord High Underling, and an ensemble comprising Maya Bowles, Shayla Caldwell, Jay Copeland, Collin Heyward, Judith Franklin, Amber Jackson, Olivia Jackson, Christina Jones, Cristina Raé, Polanco Jones, Jr., Kolby Kindle, Kareem Marsh, Avilon Trust Tate, and Keenan D. Washington. Alan Mingo, Jr. is the standby for The Wiz, and the company is rounded out by swings Lauryn Adams, Michael Samarie George, Mariah Lyttle, Dustin Praylow, Matthew Sims, Jr., and Timothy Wilson.

Schele Williams (The Notebook) is directing, with choreography by JaQuel Knight.

Take a look through the opening night photo gallery below. Guests included former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Common, Sherri Shepherd, Ben Platt and Noah Galvin, and producers Kandi Burruss and Todd Tucker

Photos: The Wiz Broadway Opening Night

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