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The WIZ- Original Broadway Cast

GoldenOboe24
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The WIZ- Original Broadway Cast#1
Posted: 6/15/19 at 12:47pm

I have always been a fan of THE WIZ- it feels as if the show has been mostly forgotten about, even though it ran for 1,672 performances at both the Majestic and Broadway Theaters, and took home seven Tony Awards in 1976, including Best Musical and Best Score, AND inspired the 1978 Sidney Lumet film starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson.

I've recently found on YouTube a series of clips of songs from the opening night performance at the Majestic- its incredible. While the sound quality is tough at times given its age, the orchestra is clear in its top form, and all the cast give 1000%, including Stephanie Mills's *incredible* "Home", and "Be a Lion". It sounds like "Brand New Day" is in the process of blowing the domed roof of the Majestic into orbit. This is in sharp comparison to the OBC cast album, which cut out most of the score (including the terrific 4.5min overture), and mixed the orchestra into the nether regions of the sound scape, bringing forward the more "Motown-sound", the rhythym section, and burying many of Harold Wheeler's beautiful orchestrations. Every song of course also has to end with the characteristic fade out of the time period. It also seems to have half the energy of other performances I've heard of this cast. Were you there? What was it like? What was the energy in the Majestic?

Even with countless regional and amateur productions of THE WIZ out there, it feels as if a lot of this score has gone forgotten- even that incredible overture. With Wheeler's lifetime achievement award given out last Sunday, will we hear this score again as it deserves to be heard?

I know this isn't the forum for this, but does anyone know where I can find that complete soundboard recording of the opening night performance from 1975? I'd love to take it and try to clean it up a bit and hear some of the incredible writing of Charlie Smalls and Harold Wheeler.



Thank you!!

jimmycurry01
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The WIZ- Original Broadway Cast#2
Posted: 6/15/19 at 1:38pm

GoldenOboe24 said: "I have always been a fan of THE WIZ- it feels as if the show has been mostly forgotten about, even though it ran for 1,672 performances at both the Majestic and Broadway Theaters, and took home seven Tony Awards in 1976, including Best Musical and Best Score, AND inspired the 1978 Sidney Lumet film starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. 

Forgotten? In what way? The show has a very healthy life in regional, community, and school theater productions, we recently had a brand new live TV production, as well as several celebrations for the show's 40th anniversary. I am genuinely confused as to how you can consider this show to be mostly forgotten in any way.

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CATSNYrevival
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The WIZ- Original Broadway Cast#3
Posted: 6/15/19 at 7:27pm
It is unfortunate we never got a complete original Broadway cast recording with the full score and no fade outs. I’d hoped we’d at least get a recording with the original orchestrations when Encores! did The Wiz but it went unrecorded.
GoldenOboe24
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The WIZ- Original Broadway Cast#4
Posted: 6/15/19 at 7:45pm

jimmycurry01 said: Forgotten? In what way? The show has a very healthy life in regional, community, and school theater productions, we recently had a brand new live TV production, as well as several celebrations for the show's 40th anniversary. I am genuinely confused as to how you can consider this show to be mostly forgotten in any way.

Perhaps I didn't mean "forgotten"- just the thought that the work never was recorded fully, or even nearly fully with the original orchestrations. The OBC recording seems almost as truncated as Capitol Records' single-LP of Follies in 1971. 

Updated On: 6/16/19 at 07:45 PM
Malinda5000
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The WIZ- Original Broadway Cast#5
Posted: 6/15/19 at 8:39pm

Saw The Wiz  in the summer of 1975  at the Majestic when I was an usher for four months from July until December 1975.   The show had just won a slew of Tony's and was the hottest ticket in town sort of like Hamilton is today.  Anyway, so glad to share the fact that the energy on that stage was always there in full form night after night.  Stephanie Mills blew the roof off the house at every performance and even when her voice would give out she still gave it her all. She was all of 16 years old then.   Her understudy , Renee Harris who also had an amazing voice started to go on more often toward the end of 1975.  Back then, they didn't have alternate actresses to  help play the tedious role of Dorothy and so Ms. Mills' voice would blow out a LOT!  Renee Harris by the way, was cast as Dorothy when the show was in production but producers thought she looked too mature for the role for Broadway so they cast Stephanie Mills and kept Ms. Harris as an understudy...she didn't look too mature to me.  Anyway Tiger Haynes was the Tin Man and he played his role in a very emotionally charged way...he had some funny lines but he played his role more sad like.   Hinton Battle was the Scarecrow and he was funny too but it was his dancing that got all the attention.  The crowd pleaser ( and rightly so ) was Ted Ross as The Cowardly Lion...He was soooo funny...he got the biggest applause at curtain call.   And then there was Ms. Mabel King as Evilene and all I can say is what an amazing talent.   Her entrance and exit in act 2 was brief but she tore the house down to the ground with No Bad News.  Ms. King  was the first original cast member to leave the show in late 1975. She left to star in the T.V. series...What's Happening and she was replaced by Theresa Merritt who played Aunt Em in the movie version of The Wiz.  Ms. Merritt was equally good as Evilene but she was no Mabel King!     Andre De Sheilds. (The Wiz)  Clarice Taylor (Addeperle)and Dee Dee Bridgwater ( Glinda ) rounded out the cast.  Andre De Sheilds was and will always be the best Wiz to date … his understudy Carl Hall was good too.   anyway, I can go on and on but that's all I got for now.    I've been a Broadway baby for years.   The first Broadway show that I saw was Applause in 1970 and even though I didn't think too highly of that show, I was hooked on Broadway.   The Wiz in my opinion was never a great musical but for it's time in the Black Power  Right On Blaxploitation  movement  of the mid 70s  it had something to say and it said it loud and proud for 4 glorious years on The Great White Way.

Updated On: 6/16/19 at 08:39 PM
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morosco
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The WIZ- Original Broadway Cast#6
Posted: 6/15/19 at 10:28pm

I was fascinated to read on IBDB that Butterfly McQueen was Clarice Taylor's (Addaperle) standby. Did she ever go on?

Updated On: 6/16/19 at 10:28 PM
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uncageg
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The WIZ- Original Broadway Cast#7
Posted: 6/15/19 at 10:33pm

THE WIZ was my first Broadway musical. I had seen PURLIE on tour but had never been to NYC for a Broadway show. I was 14 and all I knew was that I HAD to see this show. Ease On Down The Road had become an R&B mild hit that everyone in my neighborhood was singing. Plus the commercial for the show was always on tv.

I also saw it in 1975 with the original cast at The Majestic. I sat in the Orchestra house right about 6 rows back on the inner aisle. At that time I carried my portable cassette recorder with me everywhere and ended up recording the audio of the whole show. (I realized shortly after that it wasn't allowed. But somewhere in storage that tape still exists among hundreds of cassettes).

I was just mesmerized. I didn't know that Ease On Down was actually done three times in the show so that was a treat. The tornado just took my breath away. such an inventive way to do a tornado onstage. I remember I saved money to get a program and got one at intermission. In shop class I took silk screening and did the show logo an a tee shirt. I was a bit obsessed!

I fell in love with the show and ended up seeing it two more times at the Broadway Theater. By that time Stephanie Mills' voice was stronger and the things she did with the song "Home" were just mind blowing. (There are a few clips out there from the run at the Broadway Theater of her singing it). I actually got to meet her one day before a matinee. I had dropped my cousin off to see it and a friend and I were seeing another show. Before that high rise building was built next to the theater there was a fire escape on the side and she was sitting ou but it was no big deal! t having a sandwich, in costume, before the show. We stopped and briefly talked to her. She was like a normal kid....who was getting ready to blow the roof of a huge Broadway theater! lol She was so cooled out.

I love the recording and still listen to it. I too wish they hadn't left things out. Most notably the song "Who Do You Think You Are?". To this day I can sing that song from memory. One of my favorites in the show.

I have always wished for a revival on Broadway but I am afraid they will mess it up! 

Just give the world Love.
Updated On: 6/16/19 at 10:33 PM
Malinda5000
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The WIZ- Original Broadway Cast#8
Posted: 6/15/19 at 10:48pm

I don't remember if Butterfly McQueen ever went on for Addaperle while I was there...I do know that Ms. McQueen was cast as the Queen of the Mice or something like that and her scenes were cut before they reached Broadway.

Updated On: 6/16/19 at 10:48 PM
persephone88
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The WIZ- Original Broadway Cast#9
Posted: 6/16/19 at 11:21am

I was 13 when I saw the Wiz at the Broadway theatre, shortly before the end of its run. It was my first Broadway show, and I was so enthralled! One thing I have a memory of is Evilene's costume - there were a large pair of eyes on the bodice of her dress that I swear would blink while she was singing "No Bad News" - am I remembering that right or has my memory embellished that? That was my favorite number in the show!

Updated On: 6/16/19 at 11:21 AM
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darquegk
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The WIZ- Original Broadway Cast#10
Posted: 6/16/19 at 12:00pm

I think one thing people gloss over in dealing with The Wiz and why it's never come back quite the same is that even by the time they made the movie version, one of the central themes of the Broadway show had become outdated. If you look at a lot of the costumes from the Oz sections of the Broadway production, they're not just black or Afrocentric, they're downright African inspired (with a dash of tongue-in-cheek minstrel show iconography).

The late sixties and early seventies were the heyday of black nationalist separatism, a movement that never really took off in which the black community looked to the idea of an idealized "return to Africa" to start a new society as opposed to struggling in the white man's world. It was always a pie-in-the-sky ideal, and quickly moved from a mainstream talking point to forgotten utopian dream. It's not really baked into the text of The Wiz, but much like the original physical staging of Sweeney Todd was designed with elements of socialist agitprop, the original physical production of The Wiz was costumed and staged with "going to Oz" as a clear stand-in for "going back to Africa," which made Dorothy's final "Home" more than just a gospel-soul ballad, but a metaphorical statement that the black American community, for better or for worse, is now more American than African, and are home where they are. Of course, putting "the folly of emigration as an escape from prejudice" on a fun pop musical is a heavy burden to bear, which is why you don't see much of that in the movie or any production since.

Updated On: 6/16/19 at 12:00 PM
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ggersten
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The WIZ- Original Broadway Cast#11
Posted: 6/16/19 at 1:36pm

So, I did not see the original cast on Broadway. I saw the 1976 Los Angeles production with Ren Woods, Ted Ross and Valentino (and I can't swear to who else was on for the performance). I was lucky since my grandparents had third row center seats.  And it was just an incredible show - hitting so many emotions, laughter, tears, drama (ok, all except fear). The two biggest "take my breath away" moments for me were The Tornado and that final "Home" whose notes still ring in my memory (and a memory of Toto running out on stage at the very end as the heels click and the music swells) I understand all the accolades for Ms. Mills - but Ms. Woods brought the house down. The "chorus" was in a box seat above stage left, which was odd at first, but quickly forgotten. While the memory fades, the impressions remain - and it's probably still one of my all time favorite times seeing a show. 

DAME
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The WIZ- Original Broadway Cast#12
Posted: 6/16/19 at 1:39pm

ggersten said: "So, I did not see the original cast on Broadway. I saw the 1976 Los Angeles production with Ren Woods, Ted Ross and Valentino (and I can't swear to who else was on for the performance). I was lucky since my grandparents had third row center seats. And it was just an incredible show - hitting so many emotions, laughter, tears, drama (ok, all except fear). The two biggest "take my breath away" moments for me were The Tornado and that final "Home" whose notes still ringin my memory (and a memory of Toto running out on stage at the very end as the heels click and the music swells) I understand all the accolades for Ms. Mills - but Ms. Woods brought the house down. The "chorus" was in abox seat above stage left, which was odd at first, but quickly forgotten. While the memory fades, the impressions remain - and it's probably still one of my all time favorite times seeing a show."

Valentino is still around.  He teaches dance in the valley and is a regular background actor in Greys Anatomy.

HUSSY POWER! ------ HUSSY POWER!
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The WIZ- Original Broadway Cast#13
Posted: 6/16/19 at 1:44pm

darquegk said: "I think one thing people gloss over in dealing with The Wiz and why it's never come back quite the same is that even by the time they made the movie version, one of the central themes of the Broadway show had become outdated. If you look at a lot of the costumes from the Oz sections of the Broadway production, they're not just black or Afrocentric, they're downright African inspired (with a dash of tongue-in-cheek minstrel show iconography).

The late sixties and early seventies were the heyday of black nationalist separatism, a movement that never really took off in which the black community looked to the idea of an idealized "return to Africa" to start a new society as opposed to struggling in the white man's world. It was always a pie-in-the-sky ideal, and quickly moved from a mainstream talking point to forgotten utopian dream. It's not really baked into the text of The Wiz, but much like the original physical staging of Sweeney Todd was designed with elements of socialist agitprop, the original physical production of The Wiz was costumed and staged with "going to Oz" as a clear stand-in for "going back to Africa," which made Dorothy's final "Home" more than just a gospel-soul ballad, but a metaphorical statement that the black American community, for better or for worse, is now more American than African, and are home where they are. Of course, putting "the folly of emigration as an escape from prejudice" on a fun pop musical is a heavy burden to bear, which is why you don't see much of that in the movie or any production since.
"

The Black Power movement was about equality. Not a Utopian dream.

 

Just give the world Love.
MollyJeanneMusic
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The WIZ- Original Broadway Cast#14
Posted: 6/16/19 at 2:24pm

My mom saw The WIZ when she was little, and now that we've seen Hadestown, she's been trying to figure out if André was her Wiz AND our Hermes.

"It's you." "It's me. Orpheus." "Eurydice..." *crying*
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The WIZ- Original Broadway Cast#15
Posted: 6/16/19 at 4:53pm

I thought Arentia Walker was the original Dorothy understudy and she never went on. Did Renee Harris replace Arnetia?

Updated On: 6/16/19 at 04:53 PM
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darquegk
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The WIZ- Original Broadway Cast#16
Posted: 6/16/19 at 7:24pm
Not the black power movement, the black separatist movement. I never meant to say that Black Power was utopian.
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The WIZ- Original Broadway Cast#17
Posted: 6/16/19 at 8:19pm

I saw a bus and truck of The Wiz in the late seventies and Lillias White played Dorothy.

 The WIZ- Original Broadway Cast

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uncageg
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The WIZ- Original Broadway Cast#18
Posted: 6/16/19 at 8:33pm

Ok, but I don't think it really affected The Wiz not coming back or the failure of the movie.  The movie was just not good. It also took the fantasy setting away and cast Diana Ross, which a lot of people in the black community were not crazy about. Lena Horne became the "star" of the movie. Those that were part of the separatist movement were probably not the people going to see The Wiz. JMO

 

Wow, never knew Lillias White played Dorothy!

Just give the world Love.




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