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Everybody look around, ’cause there’s a reason to rejoice, you see. It’s The Wiz, the 5th Avenue Theatre’s latest family-geared holiday spectacular.
A soul, R&B, and gospel retelling of The Wizard of Oz with an all-Black cast, The Wiz’s original Broadway production won seven of its eight 1975 Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical. Three years later, it became a Sidney Lumet film starring Diana Ross (they aged Dorothy up for the movie to be Harlem schoolteacher), Nipsey Russell, Michael Jackson, Richard Pryor, and Lena Horne.
I spoke with associate artistic director Jay Woods, who also directed last season’s sensational Beauty and the Beast, to get more info on this brand-new production.
“This is the first time The 5th is creating an original staging of The Wiz by an almost entirely local cast that is wildly talented,” Woods said. “It’s great for the whole family and is something to share in community during the holidays.”
The production boasts direction and choreography by Twin Cities-based theatremaker Kelli Foster Warder, who choreographed previous 5th Ave shows Annie (2018) and the stripped-down revival of Flaherty and Ahrens’ Ragtime (2017), one of the most emotionally stirring things I’ve seen on that stage.
“Warder and her team have dreamed up such a specific and joyous world for this very special production,” Woods concluded. “I hope audiences will be wrapped up in that love and joy. It is certainly a blessing to have this show here in Seattle.”
📸: The 5th Avenue Theatre