Interview: Kandi Burruss on Bringing THE WIZ to 'Another Level' as Producer on Broadway Revival

The Wiz begins previews on Broadway on March 29, following a national tour.

By: Feb. 06, 2024
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Interview: Kandi Burruss on Bringing THE WIZ to 'Another Level' as Producer on Broadway Revival
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Kandi Burruss is bringing The Wiz to "another level" as she produces her first Broadway musical.

The Grammy-winner is no stranger to producing Broadway shows, most recently working on the acclaimed 2022 revival of The Piano Lesson with her husband, Todd Tucker. Prior to that, her journey as a producer on Thoughts of a Colored Man was chronicled on The Real Housewives of Atlanta – which she recently departed after 14 seasons.

Now, Burruss and Tucker are on the producing team of The Wiz, which has been touring across America before landing on Broadway in March.

BroadwayWorld sat down with Kandi Burruss to discuss what the expect from The Wiz, the importance of Black producers on Broadway, and using her platform on The Real Housewives of Atlanta to spotlight Broadway.

The Wiz has been on the road a couple of months now. How has everything been going so far?

Everything has been great. We've been getting great feedback, the cast has been amazing. So we were super excited. Everything has been awesome. We recently had Mr. Wayne Brady jump in as The Wiz. So that's been super cool, a new change. But yeah, everything's just getting better and better. I love the fact that we decided to do the tour before going to Broadway.

Yes, I feel like that has totally added the extra layer of excitement. I even saw the big marquee go up at the marquee theater. Everyone's posting it. Everyone is so excited for it. Yeah, I was super excited.

I think it really did help with the excitement to the show. Everyone's talking about it, they're posting their reviews, it's just a lot of great heat before we get to New York!

I've really enjoyed you seeing you take on this Broadway producer hat recently. So what about The Wiz specifically made you interested in joining the team?

The Wiz is my favorite musical of all time. As a kid, I think I just watched that movie over and over and over, even though the movie is different than the actual Broadway show. I went to a performing arts scool so we were very familiar with the production in high school. It just was always one that I knew all the words to, all the songs to.

So when my producing partner, Brian Moreland, brought it up to me and my husband, Todd, he was talking to us about it and he was like, "Yeah, this is what I want to do next." I'm like, "Yeah, let's do it." I was excited because this is my first time being a producer on a musical that's going to Broadway. The first two shows that I produced on, they were not musicals, although they were amazing, they weren't musicals. Obviously, you know, I come from a music background, so it just added to the excitement for me.

It does sound like the perfect project. Like you've said, you've produced on Broadway before. What have you enjoyed about this behind-the-scenes capacity?

Well, I'm one of those types of people who loves the behind-the-scenes as much as I love being out front. I like the business of it all. I love seeing how it all works, how it comes together, what makes a show become successful. Just being able to know the background. That's just something that is important to me.

No matter what part of the entertainment industry I've been in, whether it was music or TV or film, when you know that you're the person that could help provide jobs in the industry that you love, that makes it even more important and more special for me.

Vanessa Williams recently mentioned you in an interview discussing the importance of Black producers in theater. What has that been like for you to be able to create representation in this way on Broadway?

I think that was a major thing for me when I decided to step off into producing on Broadway. For a long time, we all know that there wasn't a lot of representation in the way that it is now, as far as Broadway in concerned. I wanted to be a part of really opening that doorway and I think part of that is being in positions of power that you can put people on.

If we are part of the people who are making the decisions of what shows go up and helping getting funding for shows and making shows successful so that more people feel comfortable about investing in shows with African Americans, or people of color in general. To be honest, one thing that I learned is that it's not as easy to get investors for shows with an all -Black cast as it is for the other shows.

Even when you have big names – because we had big names in The Piano Lesson and that ended up being super successful – we have to recognize that even though people are willing to come aboard, it's not the same as when you have a show with all-white stars.

When it comes to getting investors and when you're doing a Broadway show, your investors are very important, you really need them. I want people to feel just as confident investing in a show starring people of color, specifically all African Americans, just as much as they would any other show.

There was an episode of The Real Housewives of Atlanta when the ladies went to your opening night of Thoughts of a Colored Man. It was so exciting to see you use your platform on that show to discuss your journey as a producer on Broadway. What was it like combining the two?

I am more than appreciative that Bravo has allowed me for all these years to use my platform to show the things that I've been a part of. This one was especially important because that was when Broadway was coming back after the pandemic. Thoughts of a Colored Man was one of the first shows to come back to Broadway and open up during that time. It was so many different rules and so much different stuff going on that they had happening that was making it difficult to keep shows open and to even do television production during that time.

The Wiz
Burruss and former RHOA co-star
Cynthia Bailey at Thoughts of a Colored Man

I was just super happy and thankful that the network decided to follow that journey. Obviously, with the girls, we had to take a trip to New York during that time. A lot of restaurants weren't even open. When it comes to shooting, all of those things are important. They wanna see everything that you're doing and if there's nothing to do, they can't make it happen. They did that and I was appreciative because that was important to see seven black men starring in a show on Broadway for the first time. It was an important piece and I was happy. I was super happy that we were able to do that.

I think the other thing about that is that it brought new eyes to Broadway, as well. Because you gotta think, The Real Housewives of Atlanta is seen all around the world and a lot of people who aren't used to coming from out of town to go to a Broadway show. It opened their eyes to say, "Hey, maybe I should do that. Maybe I should come to New York and catch a Broadway show." So I would definitely say the next show that I was a part of benefited in a major way.

Something like 70% of the ticket buyers for The Piano Lesson were first-time Broadway visitors. I don't know how they calculate that and do their research, but they said like 70% of the people who bought tickets to the show were people who had never seen a Broadway show before. That's because it's a different type of marketing, a different way of getting the shows out there to the world and letting people know like, "Hey, Broadway isn't just for New York if you live in New York. It's for you to come visit New York and enjoy New York and catch a show while you're here."

You're giving Broadway such an amazing platform. As we wrap up, The Wiz opens on Broadway in March. What do you hope people take away from this production?

Amber Ruffin did an amazing job of updating the script and making it current to now. It has so many references that's gonna make you laugh-out-loud because it's relatable to what's happening now in the world. Overall, we keep the consistent story of the journey of finding who you are and realizing that everything you need to succeed in life is already within you. So that story is still there, the music is still there. Obviously, we still keep the songs that everybody knows that they love and is near and dear to their hearts.

As far as the costuming, the set, the updated story. We really brought it to another level. The talent of our cast is unmatched. I say that with confidence! I say it with my whole chest! We really did a great job of putting together the perfect cast. The talent of our cast is just so amazing. Night after night, they tear the house down.

Dorothy, Nichelle Lewis, she's a new face and we wanted a new face. But when I tell you that voice. That voice feels like it's been around. Her voice is so beautiful. And then to have people like Deborah Cox, who we all know and love. She's also a producer on the show, much love to her. I've always been a fan of Deborah Cox and what she brings to the show is amazing.

The Wiz
Deborah Cox, Nichelle Lewis, and the cast of The Wiz

Melody Betts, oh my god. I think Evillene is gonna make the whole house stand up. We have tambourines that we sell as merch out front. I always tell people, "Get a tambourine at the top of the show because when Evillene does "No Bad News," you are gonna need your tambourine. You are gonna need it." It makes everybody stand on their feet, wanna clap, wanna dance, they wanna do all of that. So I'm preparing you ahead of time. You'll understand what I'm saying when you see it. I mean, "Be A Lion," when they all come together, they do that different than what you've known it to be done before. It's so beautiful.

I'm excited about our cast because I knew they were gonna get comparisons of all the stars that have done those roles before them, but they definitely brought it and brought something new to those characters and are gonna be memorable in their own right.

The Wiz is set to open on Broadway on Wednesday, April 17, 2024, in a limited engagement at the Marquis Theatre (210 West 46th Street).  Preview performances will begin on March 29.

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