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Theatre / The Wiz

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"C'mon, ease on down, ease on down the road!"

"He's the Wiz! He's the man, he's the only one who could give your wish right to ya..."

The Wiz is a pop musical version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (book by William F. Brown, songs mostly by Charlie Smalls) that originally opened on Broadway in 1975 and was the winner of the Best Musical Tony Award for the 1974-75 season. Although it has a noticeably funky score and is usually performed with an all-black cast, its plot hews closely to that of the original novel, including characters and details that the famous 1939 film left out or changed, including the Good Witch of the North, the Silver Slippers, etc. It is still frequently staged today.

Motown and Universal produced a movie adaptation in 1978; it was directed by Sidney Lumet and Joel Schumacher wrote the screenplay. This added a further, big twist to the Oz tale: Instead of turn-of-the-20th-century Kansas, the story begins in modern Harlem and Dorothy (played by Diana Ross) is a shy schoolteacher in her 20s, swept by a blizzard to the Land of Oz — portrayed as a fantasy version of the rest of New York. See the movie's article to learn more about its cast and changes (and if an entry regarding the movie directed you to this page, please correct the link).

In early 2015, NBC and Cirque du Soleil obtained the rights to produce a live, made-for-TV adaptation, following on from the network's moderately successful series of live musicals starting with The Sound of Music Live! in 2013 and Peter Pan Live! in 2014. Tony winner Kenny Leon directed his own who's who of African-American celebrities, including Queen Latifah as the Wiz, and a newcomer as Dorothy, Shanice Williams. This version aired in December 2015, and followed the play more accurately than the movie did. However, the script does make its own embellishments, courtesy of Harvey Fierstein — such as making Dorothy a native of Omaha, Nebraska, who struggled to adjust to life in her new Kansas town prior to landing in Oz.

Not to be confused with The Wizard.

This musical and its adaptations include examples of:

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    Multiple Versions 
  • Adaptation Distillation: The stage version actually stuck closer to the original L. Frank Baum story in a number of ways, notably in having good witches for the North and South (respectively named Addaperle and Glinda in the play). Only the latter knows the secret of the Silver Slippers, which allowed this version of the story to avoid the infamous plot of the 1939 version, where Glinda doesn't tell Dorothy the secret of the Ruby Slippers when she first obtains them, only later telling her and BSing an explanation that Dorothy "wouldn't have believed her." Another example would be in the film version with the peddler and his strange puppets, which seem to be Expys for the Kalidahs of the original book and the stage version.
  • Adaptation Name Change: The Guardian of the Gates (specifically, the gates to the Emerald City) became re-christened the Gatekeeper in the play, had no formal title in the movie, and became re-re-christened the Bouncer in NBC's version.
  • Adapted Out:
    • Characters from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz that the musical left out include the Wicked Witch of the West's bees and wolves, and everyone Dorothy and her friends encountered on their way to Glinda's palace (Glinda saves Dorothy the trouble of walking there by meeting her in the Emerald City). Zig-zagged for the crows, who didn't appear in the Broadway version, but did make it into the screen versions.
    • The Mice Squad hasn't survived either of the screen adaptations, which also represent the Yellow Brick Road as an actual road instead of four men with brick-patterned suits.
    • The 2024 Broadway revival takes out Addaperle, having Glinda fill both roles.
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: "Brand New Day" is essentially a funkier "Ding-Dong The Witch is Dead".
  • Ascended Extra:
    • In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy doesn't see the Good Witch of the North again after the Witch leaves Munchkinland. In contrast, the stage and TV versions of The Wiz have Addapearle re-appear after the Wiz leaves Dorothy behind in Oz, then alert Glinda to help Dorothy return to Kansas.
    • In the original Broadway version, Aunt Em and Uncle Henry only appeared during the opening, with Dorothy greeted only by Toto when she came back to Kansas. Some later productions, including NBC's, followed the lead of the book by having Uncle Henry and/or Aunt Em re-appear at the end, to welcome Dorothy back from Oz.
  • Award-Bait Song: The last song in the musical, "Home", which Dorothy sings right before she clicks her heels and returns to Kansas.
  • Ax-Crazy: Evillene.
  • Bad Boss: Evillene often threatens to inflict various punishments on her servants, or even kill them, if they fail to keep her happy. The screen adaptations take this to a more literal level by placing her in charge of a business - a sweatshop in the movie, a nondescript corporation in the TV special.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: The people of Oz consider Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, the most beautiful witch in the land, and the Wicked Witches, Evamean and Evillene, the ugliest. In the Broadway and movie versions, Evillene's actress (Mabel King) had so much makeup, she looked at least twice as hideous as the Good Witches (Clarice Taylor and Tony-winning Dee Dee Bridgewater on Broadway, Thelma Carpenter and Lena Horne in the movie).
  • Big Entrance: Glinda gets one when she comes to aid Dorothy. In the play and the TV special, she descends from the sky, while in the movie, she materializes from behind a shower of stardust.
  • Clever Crows: The crows in both the movie and the NBC version use their intelligence to convince the Scarecrow that he's stupid and can't frighten them off.
  • Costume Porn: Nearly nonstop. The original Broadway and NBC versions even won a Tony and an Emmy, respectively, for Best/Outstanding Costume Design. (The movie earned a nomination in the corresponding Oscar category, but lost to Death on the Nile.) The play and the TV special lampshade this when Addaperle gives Dorothy the Silver Shoes; even though the witch refers to them as a "secondhand" pair, Dorothy calls them the nicest shoes she ever owned.
  • Crowd Song: Several, in particular "He's the Wizard" and the aptly-titled "Everybody Rejoice (Brand New Day)".
  • Demoted to Extra: Toto doesn't accompany Dorothy to Oz in the play or the TV version, instead only appearing during scenes set in Kansas. This was likely due to difficulties with training a dog.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Dorothy and her friends have to perform a lot of journeying and hard work to achieve their goals.
  • Fantasy Keepsake: Unlike the book, Dorothy gets to keep the Silver Slippers when she returns to Kansas in the play and the TV version. The Slippers provide Dorothy with both a reminder that her adventure in Oz was not All Just a Dream (unlike the adventure in MGM's The Wizard of Oz), and a means for her to someday meet her friends again.
  • Gang of Bullies: The Crows are this to the Scarecrow in the movie and TV versions. They put down Scarecrow's love of knowledge, his intelligence, and his optimism. They also refuse to let him from his post and let him walk and force him to sing "You Can't Win", a song about, as Michael Jackson himself put it, humiliation and helplessness. Despite all of this, the crows wholeheartedly believe they are looking out for him. In the movie version, though, the crows work for the Wicked Witch, so they might be want to torture him.
  • Guardian Entity: In the play and the TV special, Glinda watches over Dorothy during her adventure, though she doesn't reveal herself until after Addaperle summons her to help Dorothy go back to Kansas.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Evillene has one.
    "I wake up already negative and I'm lightin' up my fuse!
    So don't nobody bring me no bad news!"
  • Hates Baths: According to the Cowardly Lion, Evillene has herself dry-cleaned instead of bathed, because of how strongly she fears touching water.
  • Homesickness Hymn: Before Dorothy starts her journey to the Emerald City, she expresses her wishes to leave Oz in "Soon As I Get Home".
  • "I Am" Song: Subverted with both "Mean Ol' Lion", the Cowardly Lion's introductory song, in which he presents himself as anything but cowardly, and "So You Wanted to Meet the Wizard" for the Wiz's flashy, smoke-and-mirrors entrance.
  • "I Want" Song: The Tin Man longs for the capability for human emotion in "What Would I Do If I Could Feel?" In the play and the TV version, he sings this to the Wiz, while in the movie, he speak-sings it to Dorothy and Scarecrow before he joins them to meet the Wiz.
  • I'm Melting!: Evillene does this after Dorothy douses her with water. The circumstances, and effects used, differ in each version.
    • In the play, Evillene threatens to skin the Cowardly Lion after he insults her, so one of the Winkies suggests Dorothy save him by dumping a nearby bucket of water on the witch. Evillene promptly melts away, leaving only her cloak behind.
    • In the movie, Evillene inflicts Cold-Blooded Torture on Dorothy's friends, after Dorothy refuses to give her the Silver Shoes. The Scarecrow encourages Dorothy to pull the fire alarm, which sets off the sprinklers, and causes Evillene to both melt away and sink into her throne (a toilet).
    • In the TV special, Evillene responds to Dorothy's refusal to give her the Silver Shoes by threatening to kill her and her friends. Dorothy, remembering when the Cowardly Lion informed her that Evillene can't stand to touch water, drenches the witch with the nearest bucket she can find. Evillene melts away in a cloud of smoke, leaving no remains.
  • Incredibly Long Note: Quite possibly every song has one either at or near the end.
  • Inept Mage: Addaperle seems prone to Magic Misfire. Her Magic Slatenote  gives six inaccurate guesses about Dorothy's name, and she also needs to wave her wand multiple times in order to leave Munchkinland.
  • It Was with You All Along / Magic Feather: "If You Believe", aka "Believe In Yourself", is a song explaining this to Dorothy's companions with regards to what they were searching for (the Wiz sings it in the stage version, Dorothy in the movie). The reprise, performed by Glinda, reveals that the Silver Slippers will take Dorothy home if she believes she can do so. NBC's version replaced the first performance of "Believe in Yourself" with a series of motivational speeches that the Wiz gives to Dorothy's companions, while Glinda still sings her version of the song to Dorothy.
  • Jive Turkey: The productions tend to incorporate African-American slang, and actually even use "turkey" as an insult.
  • Large Ham:
  • Lonely at the Top: While the Wiz rules over the Emerald City, he/she never leaves the throne room, lest the citizens realize he/she doesn't really have as much fearsome power as they think. Unfortunately, this prevents the Wiz from becoming friends with any of the citizens.
  • Long Song, Short Scene: Inverted for "Ease On Down the Road", since the first verse doesn't appear on the soundtracks of the Original Broadway version or the NBC version. The movie soundtrack has all the verses, but that version of the musical swapped the first two.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: The best examples would be "You Can't Win", an upbeat tune (heard only in the screen versions) that is all about tearing The Scarecrow's self-esteem to shreds, and "Don't Nobody Bring Me No Bad News", a selfish Villain Song taking place in the Big Bad's lair that is performed in the style of a Gospel song. The movie album subverts the lyrical dissonance of "You Can't Win" by incorporating Jackson's pained screaming into the backing vocals.
  • Monochrome Casting: Traditionally, the entire cast is black.
  • Mood Whiplash: The Munchkins abruptly shift from dramatically warning Dorothy of all the scary things she could encounter while easing on down the Yellow Brick Road, and happily wishing her good luck on her journey. The TV special adds another instance at the beginning of Dorothy's visit to Munchkinland: The arrival starts out as a murder investigation, as the Munchkins ask if her if her house killed the owner of the Silver Shoes, whose feet are sticking out from underneath the house. After she nervously admits that the house belonged to her Aunt Em, the Munchkins happily thank Dorothy for offing the Silver Shoes' owner, the Wicked Witch of the East.
  • Music for Courage: Dorothy sings "Be a Lion" to help the Cowardly Lion overcome his fearfulness.
  • The Musical: It’s an another adaptation of 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz'', besides the more famous 1939 MGM film.
  • Musicalis Interruptus: The second performance of "Ease On Down the Road" gets interrupted by the Cowardly Lion attempting to scare Dorothy, Scarecrow, and Tin Man with "Mean Ol' Lion". In the NBC special, the latter song's last note gets interrupted by Dorothy punching the Lion.
  • Named by the Adaptation: In The Wizard of Oz, none of the witches had any names, except for Glinda, the Good Witch of the South. In The Wiz, the Wicked Witches have Names to Run Away from Really Fast, Evamean (the Wicked Witch of the East) and Evillene (the Wicked Witch of the West). The Good Witch of the North goes by Addaperle in the stage and NBC versions, and Miss One in the movie.
  • Oh, No... Not Again!: Dorothy has this reaction the second time she unexpectedly kills a wicked witch.
  • Original Cast Precedent: See Race Lift below.
  • Precision F-Strike: When the Wiz asks the Cowardly Lion what he wants, the intimidated Lion exclaims, "To get the hell out of here!"
  • Race Lift: For all the characters! (Well, except for Toto.) While many productions stick with the all-black casting, colorblind stagings are also common, probably because if you take the story at face value, race doesn't seem like an issue in it.
  • Scary Black Woman: The film version of Evilene, played by the same actress who portrayed her in the original Broadway run, is this trope. Mary J. Blige also gave an intimidating performance in the TV version.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: The Wiz dons a snazzy outfit for first meeting Dorothy and her friends in the play and the TV version. In all the versions, many more sharp-dressed men and women appear in the Emerald City Plaza before Dorothy and her friends enter the throne room.
  • Single-Palette Town: The Emerald City.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Four of the supporting female roles (Auntie Em, Addaperle, Evilline, and Glinda) are only featured in one or two scenes each (for about 5-10 minutes onstage apiece), and each only has one song to sing. Yet all are noteworthy characters who are crucial to the plot, their songs are showstoppers, and the roles have brought recognition, acclaim and accolades to the actors who have played them (including Dee Dee Bridgewater, who won a Tony Award for barely more than 5 minutes onstage as Glinda in the Original Broadway Cast).
  • Spared by the Adaptation: The Kalidahs presumably fall to their death in the original book, but the stage version just has them either chased off or escaped from.
  • Take Over the World: Evillene schemes to use the Silver Slippers' powers to enslave everyone in Oz.
  • Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: In the original Broadway production, Dorothy wore red bows on her Girlish Pigtails. The TV special featured her wearing a headband.
  • There's No Place Like Home: Dorothy's goal involves finding her way back home from Oz. She expresses this longing in the song "Soon As I Get Home", which she sings before she leaves Munchkinland for the Emerald City, and the finale "Home" (quoted below), a Triumphant Reprise which serves the same purpose that the Trope Naming phrase did in the MGM movie: Dorothy's incantation for the Silver Slippers to take her back to Aunt Em.
    When I think of home, I think of a place where there's love overflowing
    I wish I was home, I wish I was back there, with the things I've been knowing...
  • Villain Song: "Don't Nobody Bring Me No Bad News" for Evillene.
  • Was Once a Man:
    • The Yellow Winkies, Evilene's poor troll-like slaves, all turn out to be human, after she is destroyed.
    • The stage show brings back portraying the Tin Man as having once been flesh and blood, until he fell in love with one of Evamean's slave girls, and so she cursed his axe to chop off his body parts.

    Exclusive to the Play 
  • And Starring: The credits in the Playbill for the original Broadway version read, "Also starring Stephanie Mills as Dorothy".
  • Dream Ballet: The "Lion's Dream" sequence.
  • Freudian Excuse: The Lion became a coward because his father abandoned him as a cub, and left him in the care of his overbearing mother.
  • Non-Appearing Title: The Original Broadway Cast recording's cover refers to "A Brand New Day" as, "Everybody Rejoice", despite the fact no one sings that exact phrase.note 
  • Really Was Born Yesterday: The Scarecrow's "I Am" Song is called "I Was Born on the Day Before Yesterday". (Both of the screen adaptations replaced it with "You Can't Win.")
  • Related in the Adaptation: Unlike the Good Witch of the North from the book, Addaperle refers to both Evamean and Glinda as her sisters.

    Exclusive to the 2015 TV Version 
  • Adaptation Distillation: Ne-Yo, the Tin Man in this version, has described it as " a blend of the Broadway musical and the movie".
  • Adaptation Name Change: Evillene commands "Winged Warriors" instead of "Winged Monkeys", to avoid any negative connotations behind referring to African-Americans as "monkeys".
  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade: The TV version shows more of Dorothy's grief over the death of her parents than did the play and the movie (and even The Wonderful Wizard of Oz). Aunt Em, the sister of Dorothy's mama, also mourns the loss.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Evillene doesn't look as hideous here as she did in the Broadway musical or the movie, since Mary J. Blige didn't have to wear facial prosthetics.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: When the book had a talking, corn-stealing crow tell the Scarecrow that the latter would benefit from some brains, the Scarecrow took it as sage advice. The crow in this version of The Wiz instead says it as an insult.
  • Adaptational Superpower Change: The Kalidahs (who were just tiger-bear beast things in the book and original stage play) have been given the ability to read minds and shapeshift.
  • Adapted Out: In addition to the characters listed in the "Multiple Versions" folder, Uncle Henry never appears onscreen.
  • Age Lift: The Tin Man and the Good Witch of the North seem noticeably younger here than in the movie or original Broadway versions.note  The actors of Dorothy's other companions were older than their Broadway and movie predecessors, but this might not look as apparent to the average viewer.
  • All There in the Manual: The soundtrack cover pamphlet gives the name of the Lion, Tin Man, and Scarecrow's Kansas farmhand counterparts as Robert, John, and Sticks respectively. The dialogue name-drops Robert, but not the other two.
  • Ambiguous Species: The Flying Monkeys are changed to "The Winged Warriors". Never are they referred to as monkeys, and according to the director, they actually "could be gargoyles".
  • And Starring: "Introducing Shanice Williams as Dorothy" in the poster and opening credits, and "And Queen Latifah" in the opening credits.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: When Dorothy asks the Wiz to help her go home, she details her efforts to leave her Aunt Em's farm for her birthplace in Omaha. The Wiz interrupts, "Which one is your home?", and declares that he can't help her find her way if she can't figure out where to go.
  • Autotune: The soundtrack makes questionably necessary use of this. It sounds especially evident when Dorothy first joins in "We Got It".
  • Badass Boast: Dorothy delivers one to the crows in order to scare them away from picking on Scarecrow.
    I already killed a wicked witch this morning, and I wasn't even mad at her!
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Downplayed rather heavily compared to the play and the movie. Evillene has undergone some Adaptational Attractiveness, as mentioned above. Additionally, the Poppies appear quite alluring, until they turn those who come near into their servants - A Munchkin who warns Dorothy about the Poppies outright admits that sometimes beautiful things can prove deadly. All that being said, the script still calls Glinda the Good Witch of the South (played by Uzo Aduba) the most gorgeous witch in Oz; after Glinda's Big Entrance, an awestruck Dorothy tells Addaperle, "She is beautiful!"
  • Celebrity Paradox: Despite living in what has to be the 2010s, Dorothy never notices all the uncanny parallels between her own experiences and the 1939 movie and 1900 book that are slavishly being copied here. (Of course, if she had been, she'd have been ridiculously Genre Savvy and the story could have ended much quicker.) Thus, one must conclude that, in the universe in which The Wiz takes place, L. Frank Baum never existed - or, if he did, he never penned his most famous work.
  • Classified Information: Dorothy asks Addaperle early on what secret powers the Silver Shoes possess, but Addaperle just insists on keeping the powers a secret from her. Eventually, Glinda asks Addaperle why she didn't tell Dorothy that she could use the Shoes to go home. Addaperle sheepishly answers with the alibi, "I thought she'd want to meet you first."
  • Covers Always Lie: In promotional material, Dorothy is shown wearing a black jacket, but in the actual show, her jacket is pink.
  • Cue the Sun: The sky backdrop changes from night to day after "Home", as Toto and Aunt Em welcome Dorothy back to Kansas.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Mary J. Blige certainly doesn't fall into the usual stereotype of singers trying out acting as the Wicked Witch.
  • Foreshadowing: The opening scene with Aunt Em's farmhands contains some hints about which characters their respective actors will play when Dorothy goes to Oz.
  • Gender Flip: Played with; the Wiz is portrayed by Queen Latifah, but is still addressed as male. It is revealed that the Wiz was actually a woman all along, having been a former magician's assistant who disguised herself.
  • George Lucas Altered Version: The DVD and some digital copies corrected some of the technical and camera-changing problems that occurred during the original broadcast, and adjusted the pitch of the singing.
  • Glamour: A Kalidah attempts to steal the Silver Shoes by disguising as Dorothy's deceased mama, and imploring Dorothy to help her get down from a tree. Fortunately, the Tin Man alerts Dorothy of the ruse before the Kalidah can claim the Shoes.
  • If I Can't Have You…: The Tin Man Was Once a Man, on whom Evamean developed an unrequited crush. When Evamean discovered that he already had a girlfriend, she struck him with lightning. After he found himself transformed into a heartless tin man, she boasted that if she couldn't have his heart, then no one could.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: When Dorothy refuses to give Evillene the Silver Shoes, Evillene threatens to cook her and the Cowardly Lion in a stew. (For extra cruelty, she also threatens to burn the Scarecrow for a fire, and behead the Tin Man for a pot.) Dorothy fights back against the knife-wielding Evillene by melting her with a bucket of water.
  • Music for Courage: Dorothy and her friends overcome their nervousness about hunting Evillene by singing "We Got It", a song added especially for this production, and proclaiming that The Power of Friendship can help them complete the task and get their desires granted.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Dorothy wears red sneakers prior to receiving the Silver Shoes, a potential nod to the Ruby Slippers from MGM's The Wizard of Oz.
    • Like the MGM version The Lion, Tin Man, and Scarecrow counterparts first appear as Kansas farmhands before Dorothy’s trip to OZ.
    • When the Emerald City citizens encircle Dorothy and her friends, an electronic version of the Broadway musical's "Emerald City Ballet (Psst)" plays.
    • The lights of the Emerald City become gold as Dorothy and her friends enter the Wiz's throne room, subtly evoking when the movie's Wiz bathes the whole city in gold, before he calls Dorothy up to see him.
    • Glinda's choir for her Big Entrance vocalizes the melody of "A Rested Body is a Rested Mind", a song that Glinda sings in the play.
  • Named by the Adaptation: At one point, The Tin Man calls the Cowardly Lion "Leroy".
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The Wiz accuses Dorothy of leaving the whole East portion of Oz free for the taking by killing Evamean, and after Evillene claims that property and its denizens, the Wiz sends Dorothy and her friends to kill Evillene, before the witch takes over all of Oz.
  • Product Placement: Addaperle informs Dorothy that Apple produced her Magic Slate. However, audiences don't see an Apple logo on the slate, due to a cover color-coordinated with Addaperle's dress.
  • Related in the Adaptation: The live telecast portrays all four witches as sisters.
  • Remake Cameo: Broadway's original Dorothy, Stephanie Mills, portrays Aunt Em.
  • The Runaway: The special begins with Aunt Em's farmhands catching Dorothy attempting to run away back to Omaha.
  • Samus Is a Girl: The Wiz is revealed to be a woman.
  • Silence, You Fool!: Minus the "you fool", the Wiz exclaims this to Dorothy and her friends a few times during their first visit.
  • Take That, Audience!: Some viewers have interpreted Dorothy standing up for the Wiz, after the Tin Man sounds shocked to discover the Wiz was actually a woman, as the script also calling out whatever viewers object to Kenny Leon casting a female performer as the usually-male Wiz.
    Dorothy: Nothing wrong with being a woman! I don't know where y'all fools learned y'all manners.
  • There's No Place Like Home: This version plays around with the meaning of, "home". Dorothy initially desires to return to Omaha, where she spent her childhood until her parents died. However, her adventure helps her realize that her real home is where she can stay with people with whom she shares love. Subsequently, when the Wiz sets off for Omaha in her balloon, Dorothy instead decides to try and find a way to return to her Aunt Em's farm - Which doesn't take long, since Addaperle and Glinda fly in almost immediately to help her.
  • We Need a Distraction: When Dorothy and her friends attempt to visit the Wiz again after their defeat of Evillene, the Bouncer informs them that the Wiz has banned him from allowing them back into the Emerald City. They convince the Bouncer to step out of their way by claiming to have taken a bag of gold from Evillene's lair, and hidden it in a hole "around the corner". He leaves his post to claim the gold for himself, giving Dorothy and her friends the opportunity to sneak into the Wiz's throne room.