The Ritz Theatre Company Presents Cultural Musical Masterpiece, THE WIZ
The Ritz Theatre Company is proud to present its final production of the 2019 mainstage season, The Wiz, the cultural musical masterpiece that infuses L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with a dazzling mix of rock, gospel, and soul music.
"This production of The Wiz is part of our ongoing, all-inclusive Theatre initiative to enchant and engage future artists and audiences who are perhaps unfamiliar with the Ritz and all of our programming," says Producing Artistic Director Bruce A. Curless. "We're beyond excited for this creative team, led by director Kyrus Keenan Westcott, to bring this extraordinary show to life on our stage."
A beloved Broadway gem and aptly subtitled "The Super Soul Musical," The Wiz brought (and still brings) renewed relevance to a timeless classic, reimagining the fantastical L. Frank Baum children's story through the context of African-American culture. At the heart of the musical, however, is a story about the human condition that any audience member can identify and empathize with, something that drives and defines Westcott's artistic vision as director.
"When people think of The Wiz they often say, 'Isn't that the black version of The Wizard of Oz?' No, absolutely not. I think this show, this music, and these beautifully written characters deserve so much more than that," says Westcott. "Yes, this show is told through the eyes of the African-American culture and experience, but this show stands the test of time simply because it speaks a universal language that every person can relate to. The challenge I face with this show is to continue the African-American culture that's highlighted, but also open the door to those that may not be familiar with it. Presenting THIS show on THIS stage at THIS point in our culture is incredibly important to me."
The original Broadway production of The Wiz opened in 1975 and went on to win seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Original Score, and Best Direction of a Musical. Adapted into a film version featuring Michael Jackson and Diana Ross in 1978, the show has been revived numerous times in the decades since, both across the country and around the world, something that may speak to its universality, cultural transcendence, and profound thematic power.
"We are setting this show solely (and proudly) in the mid-1970s. But what makes it so interesting is the fact that there are so many parallels the audience will find between that time in our culture and the world we live in today," continues Westcott. "As artists, we don't really have to go out of our way to shove that relevance into the audience's face, it just naturally will enter your mind as you sit and take it all in. On top of that, our show is set in a fantasy world that many of us wish to escape to, however, as you watch it, you'll begin to question if the world is as 'fantastical' as it may seem. Is it really that different from the 'real' world we live in?"
This Ritz production of The Wiz promises to work fervently to link the fantastical with the universal, combining a beautiful blend of song and dance with many a heartfelt and humorous moment experienced by an unforgettable cast of characters, from Dorothy and Aunt Em to Glinda and Evillene to the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion. Joining Westcott on this project are music director Michelle Foster, choreographer Devon Sinclair, costumer Yu'seph Cornish, set and lighting designer Chris Miller, sound designer Matthew Gallagher, props master Charlie Barney, and an incredibly talented company of performers. All are passionate about delivering a show that not only entertains, but also enlivens each audience member on a deep, emotional, human level.
"Every person that comes to the show will walk out feeling a different way, and that's great! Overall, I am hoping that people have an experience that they haven't received anywhere else," says Westcott. "I told my cast and creative team that I want this to be different. I want this to be unique and fun, not just for the artists, but for the audience as well. As an audience member, I challenge you to dress this show in your imagination, find your own resonance within the story, search for yourself within these characters, and ultimately realize that if we truly know ourselves, we are always home."