Oscar, Grammy, and Emmy-winning artist, actor, author, and activist Common and hip-hop pioneer, actor, philanthropist, and business mogul MC Lyte have joined the producing team of the Broadway-bound touring revival of The Wiz, set to launch at Baltimore, Maryland's Hippodrome Theatre September 23. Schele Williams is directing the new production with choreography by JaQuel Knight.
“I am so blessed to be part of this production of The Wiz. Theatre has always affected me in a way that reaches my soul and spirit, in some measure because I didn’t realize as a kid that I could dream big enough to be part of it,” says Common, who made his Broadway debut in 2022 in Between Riverside and Crazy. “This is a true dream come true as one of my favorite movies growing up was The Wiz. My only hope is that this production can inspire someone else to chase their dreams and create their art.”
MC Lyte adds, “It is my greatest pleasure to have the opportunity to serve as an investor in this historic production of The Wiz. Having grown up watching all of the Broadway musicals in the 70’s and 80’s, The Wiz has always been a favorite of mine. Now, as a co-producer, I’m honored to be able to partner behind the scenes and with communities nationwide to help make this production an artistic and memorable treasure for future generations."
As previously reported, newcomer Nichelle Lewis will star as Dorothy for the upcoming tour. The actor, who hails from Virginia, was discovered via a TikTok video (watch her performance here) and selected from more than 2,000 submissions for the role.
The cast will also include Grammy nominee and Broadway alum Deborah Cox as Glinda, Melody A. Betts as Aunt Em and Evillene (The Wiz's Wicked Witch of the West), Kyle Ramar Freeman (A Strange Loop) as the Lion, Phillip Johnson Richardson (Sharper) as the Tinman, and Avery Wilson (The Voice) as the Scarecrow. Wayne Brady will star in the title role for selected stops on the tour and the Broadway run, with Kinky Boots' Alan Mingo Jr. handling the role for the rest of the tour.
The ensemble will comprise Maya Bowles, Shayla Alayre 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, Anthony Murphy, Cristina Rae, Matthew Sims Jr, Avilon Trust Tate, and Keenan D. Washington.
Williams is leading a creative team that also includes 2023 Tony Award nominee Amber Ruffin, who will provide additional material. The gig is Ruffin's second theatrical outing, following her work co-writing the Tony-nominated book to Broadway's current Some Like It Hot with Matthew López. Joseph Joubert will provide music supervision, orchestrations, and arrangements, with scenic design by Hannah Beachler, costume design by Sharen Davis, lighting design by Ryan J. O'Gara, sound design by Jon Weston, and wig design by Charles G. LaPointe. Casting is by Tara Rubin Casting.
Also joining the producing team with Kristin Caskey, Mike Isaacson, Brian Anthony Moreland, Ambassador Theatre Group, Kandi Burruss, and Todd Tucker are Elizabeth Armstrong, James L. Nederlander, Hudson/Mann, Cody Lassen/Matthew D’Arrigo, Independent Presenters Network, Amanda DuBois Productions/Ari Edelson, Dori Berinstein, Spencer Ross/Stephanie Cowan, Terry Schnuck/Gabrielle Palitz, Pippa Lambert/Alissa Norby, Gina Vernaci, Patty Baker, Marlene & Gary Cohen, Concord Theatricals, The Fabulous Invalid, Fakston Productions, Brian & Nick Ginsberg, Gabrielle Glore, Grove Entertainment, Haffner-Wright Theatricals, House Woods Productions, John Gore Organization, Kawana Entertainment, Willette Klausner, MMC Productions, Lamar Richardson, Runyonland Productions, Erica Lynn Schwartz, The Shubert Organization, Lu-Shawn Thompson, Lana Williams- Woods, The Araca Group, Blakeman-Robinson Entm’t/Ricardo Marques, Robert Tichio/Score 3, Best Yet Entertainment/Branden Grimmett, Dkim Caldwell/Mickalene Thomas, DMQR Productions, Jason Turchin, Epic Theatricals/Jeffrey Grove, Joel Glassman/Westin Hicks, Jamrock Productions/Sonya Houston, Sally Johnston/Ann Scott, Judith Manocherian/Theatre Nerd Productions, and Alan Seales/Gonzalez-Leiba Jr.
The Wiz premiered on Broadway in 1975, transforming L. Frank Baum's classic children's novel into an all-Black "super soul musical," as it was originally billed. A surprise hit of the season, the musical won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Score, Featured Actor in a Musical (Ted Ross), Featured Actress in a Musical (Dee Dee Bridgewater), Choreography (George Faison), and Direction of a Musical and Costume Design (both Geoffrey Holder). The score's "Ease On Down the Road" and "Home" became breakout hits, and original star Stephanie Mills was propelled into stardom. The musical made the jump to the big screen in 1978 with a film adaptation starring Diana Ross, Lena Horne, Richard Pryor, Michael Jackson, and, reprising his Broadway performance as the Cowardly Lion, Ross.
The musical got the live TV treatment via NBC in 2015, a production that was initially announced as being Broadway bound following the television premiere. That revival, which would have been produced by Neil Meron and the late Craig Zadan, never materialized.
For a full itinerary of the upcoming tour, visit WizMusical.com.