Review Roundup: THE WIZ Returns To Broadway!

Did critics think The Wiz was wonderful? Read the reviews as the newest Broadway revival of the classic musical opens on Broadway!

By: Apr. 17, 2024
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Review Roundup: THE WIZ Returns To Broadway!
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Did critics think The Wiz was wonderful? After months on the Road, The Wiz finally arrives at home on Broadway, wher eit is now playing at the Marquis Theatre. Read the reviews below as the newest Broadway revival of the classic musical opens, in a new production from director Schele Williams!

This groundbreaking twist on The Wizard of Oz changed the face of Broadway—from its iconic score packed with soul, gospel, rock, and 70s funk to its stirring tale of Dorothy’s journey to find her place in a contemporary world. 

The Broadway cast features Nichelle Lewis as ‘Dorothy,’ Wayne Brady as ‘The Wiz,’ Deborah Cox as ‘Glinda’ and Melody A. Betts as ‘Aunt Em’ and ‘Evillene,’ Kyle Ramar Freeman as ‘Lion,’ Phillip Johnson Richardson as ‘Tinman,’ Avery Wilson as ‘Scarecrow.’ The Wiz ensemble includes Lauryn Adams, Maya Bowles, Shayla 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, Alan Mingo, Jr., Anthony Murphy, Dustin Praylow, Cristina Rae, Matthew Sims, Jr, Avilon Trust Tate, Keenan D. Washington, and Timothy Wilson.

Read the reviews!

Review Roundup: THE WIZ Returns To Broadway! Maya Phillips, The New York Times: Now “The Wiz” returns to Broadway in a revival directed by Schele Williams and an updated book by Amber Ruffin, with the aim of creating a take “through the Blackest of Black lenses.” This new production, which opened at the Marquis Theater on Tuesday, showcases creative visuals and some standout performances, but stops short of bringing modern Blackness to Broadway.

Review Roundup: THE WIZ Returns To Broadway! Jackson McHenry, Vulture: The closest the revival gets is during Dorothy’s big journey back to Kansas as she sings “Home.” There, thankfully, the focus stays on the performance: The backdrop shifts to a black sky punctuated by stars, and Williams has Lewis illuminated by a spotlight belting her heart out from center stage. I felt my heart rising as Lewis sang, but even then the spell was incomplete. The Wiz’s sound design, which had been glitchy for much of the show, was askew, at least from my vantage point, and Lewis struggled to make herself heard above the orchestra. The effect was, as with so much of the revival, of missing out on a moment that could have been great, if only given more care and fine tuning.

Review Roundup: THE WIZ Returns To Broadway! Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: This revival, directed by Schele Williams and with a book update by Amber Ruffin, toured the country before coming to Broadway, and will ease on back out there later this year. I first caught it in Chicago, when the production remained a bit of a mess, and can report that the Broadway version reflects a lot of good new work. An initially bizarre approach to “Brand New Day” has been visually retooled and, although JaQuel Knight’s choreography retains an eccentric dimension (and I say why not?), it’s now a bright detour into psychedelic “Hair” territory. The show is modestly scaled; the quirky set is from Hannah Beachler and the costumes, which are fun and referential, are by Sharen Davis. Wayne Brady has been added to the cast in a title role that’s more of a cameo, really. But The Wiz really has to be a face that audiences recognize, that’s just about as important as the quality of the performance, and Brady is well within his wheelhouse and perfectly fine. He does what needs to be done and is bathed in a warm responsive bath.

Review Roundup: THE WIZ Returns To Broadway! Naveen Kumar, Variety: But the maximalist revival that opened at the Marquis Theater on Broadway tonight, following a 13-city national tour, diminishes some of the show’s reliable pleasures with unmitigated, candy-colored exuberance. This family-friendly approach — bright, broad, unironic — aligns with the musical’s legacy as a VHS favorite, but even kids could use help knowing where to look. Dizzying visuals and overamplification too often swallow both actors and storytelling in a swirling sensory overload.

Review Roundup: THE WIZ Returns To Broadway! Gloria Oladipo, The Washington Post: Promoted as “The Wiz” through the “Blackest of Black Lenses” in a New York Times feature, the new revival that just opened on Broadway is in touch with its legacy, delivering a pleasurable experience. But ultimately, this “Wiz” is adrift. The production is busied with creating entertainment and signposting Blackness, at the cost of a cohesive, artistic vision.

Review Roundup: THE WIZ Returns To Broadway! Johnny Oleksinki, The New York Post: Despite the cozy feeling of being reunited with beloved material 40 years after it was last on Broadway, director Schele Williams’ production is deflatingly flimsy and lackluster. Clumsily staged, it’s a Wiz-sper of what it should be.

Review Roundup: THE WIZ Returns To Broadway! Lester Fabian Brathwaite, Entertainment Weekly: The Wiz is all about feeling. It opens with the plaintive “The Feeling We Once Had,” about remembering the good times when things get bad. The musical is designed to uplift. Its cheery sentiment and its devotion to believing in oneself, to relying on one another, to easing on down the road of life and refusing to carry anything "that might be a load" may seem simplistic. But in complex times, its simple message rings loud and clear — even with some minor sound issues. A

Review Roundup: THE WIZ Returns To Broadway! Michael Musto, Village Voice: I became hopeful on learning that the new Broadway revival, directed by Schele Williams, stars 24-four-year-old Nichelle Lewis, making her Broadway debut, and sure enough she more accurately conveys the innocence of adolescence, with big sad eyes burrowing into the audience at odd moments. The earnest Lewis can also sing like an angel, though at times her Dorothy is so lost that she tends to become a cog in the aggressively flashy happenings around her.

Review Roundup: THE WIZ Returns To Broadway! Elysa Gardner, NY Sun: It could be argued that “The Wiz” is, in its humble way, a message musical — the message being that while there’s no place like home, the key lies in establishing a sense of community wherever we are. Then again, if you’re just up for a good time, you can ease on down here in comfort and confidence.

Review Roundup: THE WIZ Returns To Broadway! Matt Windman, amNY: This rendition of “The Wiz,” which arrives on Broadway following short engagements in multiple cities and is directed by Schele Williams (“The Notebook”), has the look and feel of a second-rate, low-budget touring production, with tacky, Halloween-quality costumes, limited scenic design (relying heavily on projections), and surprisingly uninspired and generic dance choreography. More thought seems to have gone into the alcoholic drinks available at intermission, including a green-colored frozen margarita.

Review Roundup: THE WIZ Returns To Broadway! David Finkle, New York Stage Review: With all the show-stopping singing and dancing and voluptuous acting — from most prominently Lewis, Freeman, Richardson, and Wilson — it could be said that The Wiz gives the enthusiastic audience its money’s worth. True and not so true. What about giving the audience more than its money’s worth? What about giving the ticket buyers a better tale than this backwards glance is currently providing? Or is this version of The Wiz not so much a backward glance as a flash forward? As a matter of disappointing fact, what’s on view now is not entirely Williams’ book.

Review Roundup: THE WIZ Returns To Broadway! Bob Verini, New York Stage Review: Under Schele Williams’ direction, the story is perfunctory, just a series of disconnected scenes. Moment by moment there is little character reality to play: Dorothy’s need to get home is never felt, and there’s no urgency in her journey. Songs and dances don’t arise naturally from the action, just one big variety show. I lost count of the number of songs that shoot up to a high note designed (successfully) to elicit spontaneous applause. Of the cast, Richardson comes off best because he’s allowed most of the time to speak like a normal person. Betts is a warm, nurturing Aunt Em anyone would click their heels to come home to, but with everyone shouting like crazy, her Evillene never becomes scary. She’s just one more yeller.

Review Roundup: THE WIZ Returns To Broadway! Jonathan Mandell, New York Theater: What I mean is: The cast as a whole can sing to the rafters and dance like the dickens, but their belting started to feel like an American Idol competition, and some of the dance numbers seemed so frenzied that at times they gave off an aura of desperation. This unmodulated, artificial-feeling fervor made me wonder whether there were too many cities on their 13-city pre-Broadway tour, leading the cast to overcompensate in order to stave off fatigue. Or had director Schele Williams simply decided that entertainment is best served with an overdose of adrenaline?

Review Roundup: THE WIZ Returns To Broadway! Matthew Wexler, Queerty: Dorothy’s back on Broadway in a reimagined revival of The Wiz. Does the fresh take with new material by Amber Ruffin and movement by Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” choreographer JaQuel Knight ease on down the road? For the most part, with a few stumbles along the way.

Review Roundup: THE WIZ Returns To Broadway! Dan Rubins, Slant Magazine: The first musical by a Black composer to win Tony Awards for best musical and best score, this well-loved show turns 50 next year. If Schele Williams’s simplistic and sometimes bewildering staging doesn’t itself demonstrate how the show has held up across those decades, she wisely steers all attention toward the main event: the stunning vocal performances from her cast. And since the show’s underwhelming visuals feel like less of a distraction than an afterthought, it’s easy enough to put the “hard stuff” to one side and just relish the aural euphoria.

Review Roundup: THE WIZ Returns To Broadway! Brian Scott Lipton, Cititour: Sadly, don’t expect to hear the same kind of exuberance for director Schele Williams’ current production of “The Wiz” at the Marquis Theatre – at least from me. Yes, the show remains a crowd-pleaser, with its catchy Charlie Smalls songs (I’m still humming “Ease on Down the Road”) and clever-enough, fairly faithful book by William F. Brown (here punched up with some contemporary jokes by Amber Ruffin) to keep us entertained for 2 ½ hours. Still Broadway audiences deserve something far better than this middling national-tour production that has been dropped into the Marquis for a limited run the same way Dorothy’s house was dropped into Oz after a tornado. True, no fatality occurs, just a sadly missed opportunity to introduce the show to new audiences (as well as delight older ones) with a first-rate reimagining of this beloved material.

Review Roundup: THE WIZ Returns To Broadway! Kyle Turner, New York Theatre Guide: There’s a lot to enjoy in the revival of The Wiz, the “super soul musical” retelling of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz first staged on Broadway in 1975. There are sparkling costumes by Sharen Davis, additional book material by Amber Ruffin, and a charming ensemble including Avery Wilson (Scarecrow), Phillip Johnson Richardons (Tinman), Kyle Ramar Freeman (Lion), and newcomer Nichelle Lewis (Dorothy). But the subtext is most compelling about this revival. .

Review Roundup: THE WIZ Returns To Broadway! Robert Hofler, The Wrap: In other words, the actors and dancers in this “Wiz” carry the show magnificently, with Kyle Ramar Freeman’s Lion, Phillip Johnson Richardson’s Tin Man and Avery Wilson’s Scarecrow the funniest trio of misfits ever to take us on this trip to Oz. Watching these three actors outperform each other is a friendly competition not to be missed. This kind of ensemble doesn’t come out of nowhere and credit must go to director Schele Williams. But the secret sauce here is Amber Ruffin, who’s credited with “additional material for this production.” No way did William F. Brown’s book for the original 1974 Broadway production of “The Wiz” offer this many inspired one-liners. Ruffin provides a lot of great stand-up, put-down humor for Melody A. Betts’ wonderful Evilene (a Wicked Witch) and Allyson Kaye Daniel’s equally terrific Addaperle (a Good Witch). Leading the Munchkins, Daniel sets the stage afire until Wilson, Richardson and Freeman come aboard to burn it down completely.

Review Roundup: THE WIZ Returns To Broadway! Lane Williamson, The Stage: Now, they’re playing on Broadway for the first time since its original production in an energetic, charming new staging from director Schele Williams. Cheers erupt. Charlie Smalls’ score is packed with infectious grooves and the cast delivers some fine singing. JaQuel Knight’s choreography physicalises the music and the show ascends when the full ensemble is in motion.

Review Roundup: THE WIZ Returns To Broadway! Juan A. Ramirez, Theatrely: Surprisingly, it’s Wayne Brady as The Wiz who underwhelms; his entrance is surprisingly lowkey, and though his voice is serviceably charming, it’s leagues behind his co-stars. His shoddy throne throws a glaring light on the production’s prudence of grandeur. The real riches are in the cast’s connection to each other, and to the material. Its young leads, as well as their more experienced counterparts, are having the time of their lives and making the most of their roles, singing with an infectious joy typically missing from oft-retread properties. The road to success might have a few bricks missing, but it’s a golden one nonetheless.

Review Roundup: THE WIZ Returns To Broadway!
Average Rating: 57.5%

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