See Who’s Starring in the Off-Broadway Premiere of A Sabbath Girl: A New Musical

The musical romcom centers on a work weary woman and her new neighbor crush as they learn to balance city life and unexpected romance.

By Margaret Hall June 18, 2024 for Playbill

A Sabbath Girl: A New Musical will premiere Off-Broadway later this month at Theater A in 59E59 Theaters.

Featuring a book by Cary Gitter, lyrics by Neil Berg and Gitter, and music by Berg, the piece is conceived and directed by Joe Brancato. Performances will begin July 23, and continue through September 1.

The Sabbath Girl centers on a work weary woman and her new neighbor crush as they learn to balance city life and unexpected romance. The Sabbath Girl had its world premiere at Penguin Rep Theatre in Stony Point, NY this past May.

The Off-Broadway production will feature Marilyn Caserta (Six), Diana DiMarzio (The Visit, Sweeney Todd), Rory Max Kaplan (Jersey Boys, A Bronx Tale), Lauren Singerman (Caroline, Or Change, Forbidden Broadway) and Max Wolkowitz (Indecent, My Name is Asher Lev).

The creative team will include set designers Christopher and Justin Swader, costume designer Gregory Gale, lighting designer Jamie Roderick, and sound designer Kwamina Biney.

They will be supported by properties manager Buffy Cardoza, music supervisor and arranger Wendy Bobbitt Cavett, music director Matthew Lowy, orchestrator Alex Wise, and movement consultant Ryan Kasprzak. The production stage manager is Michael Palmer.

For more information, visit

Listen: THE WIZ Releases 2024 Broadway Cast Recording, Available to Stream now!

The physical CD will be released in July and on vinyl in August 2024.

The Wiz (2024 Broadway Cast Recording) is available now on all streaming platforms! Listen to the album here and below! From left to right: Kyle Ramar Freeman, Nichelle Lewis, Avery Wilson, and Phillip Johnson Richardson

The Wiz (2024 Broadway Cast Recording)’s physical CD will be released in July and on vinyl in August 2024. To pre-order the physical album now, click here.

If you haven’t seen it yet, get tickets to see The Wiz here !


1.   Overture/Soon As I Get Home (Preprise)
2.   The Feeling We Once Had
3.   He’s The Wizard
4.   You Can’t Win
5.   Slide Some Oil To Me
6.   Mean Ole Lion
7.   Ease On Down the Road
8.   Be A Lion
9.   Meet The Wizard
10. What Would I Do If I Could Feel
11. We’re Gonna Make It
12. Don’t Nobody Bring Me No Bad News
13. Wonder, Wonder Why
14. Everybody Rejoice/Brand New Day
15. Y’All Got It
16. Ease On Down The Road (Reprise)
17. Believe In Yourself
18. Home

About The Wiz

The Wiz Broadway revival recently opened on April 17, 2024 at the Marquis Theatre and has been playing to sold-out audiences and standing ovations nightly.

This season, The Wiz played to 13 sold-out cities across America on its pre-Broadway tour, the first one in 40 years and played 167 performances to more than 390,000 cheering fans from coast to coast.

This groundbreaking twist on The Wizard of Oz changed the face of Broadway—from its iconic score packed with soul, gospel, rock, and 70s funk to its stirring tale of Dorothy’s journey to find her place in a contemporary world. A dynamite infusion of ballet, jazz, and modern pop brings a whole new groove to easing on down the road.

The extraordinary Broadway cast features Nichelle Lewis as ‘Dorothy,’ Wayne Brady as ‘The Wiz,’ Deborah Cox as ‘Glinda’ and Melody A. Betts as ‘Aunt Em’ and ‘Evillene,’ Kyle Ramar Freeman as ‘Lion,’ Phillip Johnson Richardson as ‘Tinman,’ Avery Wilson as ‘Scarecrow.’ THE WIZ ensemble includes Lauryn Adams, Shayla Alayre Caldwell, Jay Copeland, Allyson Kaye Daniel, Judith Franklin, Michael Samarie George, Nadja Hayes, Destini Hendricks, Collin Heyward, Olivia Jackson, Christina Jones, Polanco Jones, Kolby Kindle, Mariah Lyttle, Kareem Marsh, Alan Mingo, Jr., Anthony Murphy, Dustin Praylow, Cristina Rae, Matthew Sims Jr, Avilon Trust Tate, Keenan D. Washington, and Timothy Wilson.

Featuring a book by William F. Brown and a Tony Award-winning score by Charlie Smalls (and others), director Schele Williams (The Notebook, revival of Disney’s Aida), award-winning choreographer JaQuel Knight (Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies,” Black is King), additional material by Tony-nominated and Emmy-nominated writer and TV host Amber Ruffin (“The Amber Ruffin Show,” “Late Night With Seth Meyers”), Joseph Joubert (music supervision, orchestrations, & music arrangements), Allen René Louis (vocal arrangements, music arrangements), and Emmy Award-winning music director and Grammy Award-winning writer Adam Blackstone and Terence Vaughn (Dance Music Arrangers), and Paul Byssainthe Jr. (Music Director), are conjuring up an Oz unlike anything ever seen before.  A dynamite infusion of ballet, jazz, and modern pop will bring a whole new groove to easing on down the road. 

The Wiz design team includes scenic design by Academy Award-winning Hannah Beachler (Black Panther, Beyoncé’s Black is King and Lemonade), costume design by Emmy Award-winning and two-time Academy Award-nominated Sharen Davis (Ray, Dreamgirls), lighting design by Barrymore Award-winning Ryan J. O’Gara (Thoughts of a Colored Man), sound design by Jon Weston (Parade), video and projection design by Daniel Brodie (Motown the Musical), hair and wig design by Charles LaPointe (MJ the Musical) and make-up design by Kirk Cambridge-Del Pesche (The Piano Lesson).

The production includes ‘Everybody Rejoice’ music and lyrics by Luther Vandross, as well as the ‘Emerald City Ballet’ with music by Timothy Graphenreed.

Based on L. Frank Baum’s children’s book, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”, The Wiz takes one of the world’s most enduring (and enduringly white) American fantasies, and transforms it into an all-Black musical extravaganza for the ages.

The Wiz premiered on Broadway in 1975 and became an instant sensation, going on to win seven Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Ted Ross), Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Dee Dee Bridgewater), Best Choreography (George Faison), and in a Broadway first, Best Direction of a Musical and Best Costume Design (Geoffrey Holder). “Ease on Down the Road” became the show’s break-out single, and “Home” has since become a bona fide classic. That original production ran for four years (first at The Majestic Theatre and later at The Broadway Theatre) – and 1,672 performances – on Broadway. A 1978 film adaptation starred Diana Ross, Ted Ross, Mabel King, Richard Pryor and Lena Horne, and marked Quincy Jones’ first collaboration with Michael Jackson.

The Wiz Comes Home to Broadway And it’s Queerer and Funnier than Ever.

For The CUT By Soraya Nadia McDonald, a writer and critic who covers theater and culture.  Photographs by Elliott Jerome Brown Jr.

Photo: Elliott Jerome Brown

Almost every Black person of a certain age remembers being terrified by something in The Wiz.

For me, it was the sharp-toothed trashcan monsters of the New York subway that antagonize Dorothy (Diana Ross) and her friends Lion (Ted Ross), Tinman (Nipsey Russell), and Scarecrow (Michael Jackson) in the 1978 movie musical that came out a few years after the show’s Broadway debut. For others, it was the wicked sweatshop mistress Evillene — don’t bring her no bad news — and her menacing band of simian motorcyclists.

For Melody Betts, who plays Evillene and Aunt Em in the Broadway revival opening April 17 at the Marquis Theatre, “the ‘Mean Ole Lion’ track scared me half to death.” Betts began listening to the soundtrack on vinyl when she was just a toddler in the late ’70s. “I would listen to the whole thing and I would sing along. And then when that part came, I would get up and go into the closet and hide because I was scared. And then when that song was over, I would come back out and finish listening to the rest on the soundtrack.”

LOUIS VUITTON Double Stripe Gathered Blouse, Graphic Tiered Skirt, LV Wrapped 60mm Belt and Sparkle Slingback Pump, Photo: Elliott Jerome Brown

Fans who’ve been hoping to revisit the soundtrack have nothing to fear. Nearly 50 years after it first opened on Broadway April 17, 1975, The Wiz, in all its “Black-is-beautiful” glory, has returned. It’s a show that, in a departure from the 1939 film based on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, has always been more vibes and music than plot, a space to bask in Black excellence, elegance, fashion, dance, and futurism. The revival is queerer and funnier than ever, with an updated book full of new material by comedian, writer, and first Black woman to host a late night show, Amber Ruffin, and steered by Schele Williams in her Broadway directorial debut (Williams is directing two Broadway shows this season; the other is The Notebook).

While the musical, in all its iterations, holds a venerable place in the hearts and minds of Black families, with love for it passed down like a treasured potato salad recipe, others still chiefly remember The Wiz as a spectacular flop. The 1975 Broadway production, with its all-Black company starring André De Shields in the title role and Stephanie Mills as Dorothy, was seen as a revelation. Even the snappy new title —The Wiz — heralded a brand new day. With a book by William F. Brown, music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls, a thoroughly modern, soul-funkified iteration of the classic story bowed at the Majestic Theatre and took home seven Tony Awards, including one for Best Musical. But the 1978 film adaptation, directed by Sidney Lumet (who had never directed a movie musical before), lost a reported $10.4 million (approximately $48.4 million today). At the time, The Wiz was the most expensive movie musical ever made; a bomb that left a decades long fallout of producer anathema to splashy, big-budget Black projects. The lingering hangover of The Wiz is a disproportionate and chilling skepticism toward funding Black cinematic audacity as a whole. It calls to mind something Judas and the Black Messiah director Shaka King told The New Yorker’s Jelani Cobb in 2021: “Even the math in Hollywood is racist.”

On Wayne: BURBERRY Long Houndstooth Car Coat, Warped Houndstooth Wool Jacket and Trousers, Cotton Oxford Shirt, and Leather Tux Derby Shoes (as seen above), at On Kyle: DARUCCI Leather Jacket, at DXL Blazer, Shirt, Pants and Shoes, at On Phillip: HERMÈS Tank Top and Pleated Trousers, at FERRAGAMO Derby, at Photo: Elliott Jerome Brown

Losing money is a regular occurrence on Broadway, so much so that when a show recoups its investment, there’s a press release trumpeting the occurrence. Yet everyone is aware of the historical stakes accompanying this show, and every Black show that manages to make it to Broadway. Part of the reason this revival is what Wayne Brady — who plays the titular Wiz in the revival — calls “a beautiful example of Black excellence” is because in this economy, it can’t afford to be anything else.

For years, rumors of a modern Broadway revival of The Wiz floated about New York’s small Black theater community, an urban legend that could one day see reality if enough folks just kept hope alive. In 2018, hope began its long journey toward reality when Ruffin, who also co-wrote the book for the Tony-winning Some Like It Hot revival, began developing a new book for St. Louis’s Muny Theatre, the oldest and largest outdoor musical theater in the United States. Like everything else in the world that relied on in-person interaction, the show encountered a setback when COVID hit. But that forced pause turned out to be a blessing.

“It takes this time to marinate so that it can really become exactly what you want,” Ruffin says. “And I guess it kind of makes you braver because you’ve been staring at it for so long. You might as well just go for it, is how I feel. Everything about this show is a very big swing, and that’s what makes it work.”

Visual details in the revival telegraph a contemporary, post-Obama Wiz before the first ba-da-bump-ba-dump of “Ease on Down the Road” bass line ever drops. The set, conceived by Oscar-winning Black Panther designer Hannah Beachler, is framed in a black-and-white pattern evoking body paint commonly seen at Afropunk, while Sharen Davis’s costuming speaks to the show’s overall ethos of compassionate, multifaceted expansiveness.Dorothy — sans Toto — sports a black watch plaid skater dress and Doc Martens, a choice sure to capture the attention of both vintage-curious zoomers and their Gen-X relatives.

On Avery: YOHJI YAMAMOTO Pour Homme U-Frilled Long B, N-Grey Stitch 1-Button Jacket, and J-Trple Stitch Color Combi, at Yohji Yamamoto 52 Wooster St., NYC. LOUIS VUITTON Men’s Dress Shoes (as seen above), at On Melody: PAMELLA ROLAND Black Crepe Cocktail Dress with White Pique Mikado Ruffle Neckline. DRIES CRIEL Flow Earrings IV, at BOUCHERON Serpent Bohème Solarité Necklace, at SERGIO ROSSI Sergio sr Twenty Pumps (as seen above), at Photo: Elliott Jerome Brown

“Our Dorothy is a teenager, and it was important to me to raise the stakes of the show to not give her a companion because that makes it a little safer,” Williams explains. (For the record, she loves dogs! She has nothing against canines as a species!) “She’s got this buddy with her and I really wanted her to feel isolated. I did not want to give her anything that could give her comfort and make her feel like she had something from home.”

Nichelle Lewis, in her Broadway debut as Dorothy, seems to combine the best of Judy Garland, Mills, and Ross’s performances even as she creates her own. Lewis, 24, was able to connect to the lonesomeness and alienation that endears Dorothy to so many. She grew up next to a farm in Virginia, and her mother raised Lewis and her sisters after Lewis’s father died when she was 10. “I wanted to create a Dorothy who was free in herself, who felt very confident in herself and knowing who she is, but also was just scared of what was happening around her,” Lewis says. She sings with an innocence and yearning rooted in experience.

Similarly, the Guyanese-Canadian Deborah Cox, who plays Glinda, found herself relating to the message of The Wiz — that you already have everything you need within you to face your fears — and Ruffin’s take on the quintessential Blackness of the original. “As a Black Caribbean person, a lot of different things resonate with me,” she says, adding that she felt inspired by the success of Trinidadian director Geoffrey Holder, who brought home Tonys for his direction and choreography of the original Broadway production, despite not being producer Ken Harper’s first choice for either position.

On Deborah: PAMELLA ROLAND Champagne Embroidered Tulle Caftan with Feathers, at Harrods. DRIES CRIEL White Crow II Earrings, at ROGER VIVIER I Love Vivier Pumps (as seen above), at Photo: Elliott Jerome Brown

In Lumet’s film, the foursome traversed various neighborhoods of New York City. The 2024 revival jumps around the country, from the Tremé/Lafitte of New Orleans to the queer, fluorescent haired adolescent buskers and go-go bucket drummers of Washington, D.C.’s Gallery Place, to the smooth calypso rhythms that populate Brooklyn’s Crown Heights. “I mean, the music in the show spoke to me when I read the real history behind the costume design,” Cox says. “There are so many things that I can relate to in the show, even though I didn’t grow up here in the U.S. … I think that’s it from a soul level.”

The movie version of The Wiz didn’t succeed at the box office, but it did become a cult classic. The influence of the film shows up in other works. The Moonin Caroline, or Change evokes Lena Horne’s cinematic iteration of Glinda, while the joyous clutter core of a Taylor Mac show recalls some of Tony Walton’s production design choices. The Wiz is for the misfits, a quality shared by many a queer kid who found refuge in its music, in the thousands of school theater productions that have been staged since 1975. And while The Wizard of Oz has always been queer — hello, friends of Dorothy — this new version of The Wiz boasts quite possibly the swishiest cowardly lion ever to grace a stage. The queer subtext that made The Wizard of Oz a camp classic has blossomed into text, as evidenced by the performances of Kyle Ramar Freeman (Lion) and Avery Wilson (Scarecrow). For one, Lion’s mane could not be more laid if he let Ms. Tina Knowles play in his locks.

“Bay-BEE! Twenty-two inches, the beard and the hair,” exclaims Freeman via Zoom, who has to arrive at every performance 30 minutes before his castmates to complete hair and makeup, which is all kept in place, sweat free, with some sort of industrial strength antiperspirant setting spray. Freeman also makes full use of Lion’s tail, to great comedic effect.

On Nichelle: GUCCI Light Blue Cady Crêpe Wool Silk, Mini Dress with Crystal Flower Embroidery, at LOUIS VUITTON Sparkle Slingback Pump (as seen above), at Photo: Elliott Jerome Brown

“When I was trying to discover what I would move and what I wanted to embody, as far as character goes, I am whirling that tail,” says Freeman, who came out to his “religious” family at 23, when he was just beginning to build an acting career in the theater. “I’m shaking that tail. I’m crying with the tail. I’m tracing my tail. I’m just having fun because I love a prop.”

The luxurious mane and the tail-flipping are all wrapped up in something bigger for Freeman, namely the show’s themes of bravery and self-acceptance. Coming out provided necessary liberation that eventually led to Freeman’s casting in The Wiz. “When I freed myself in my personal life from the constraints of trying to be something else, I was denying jobs, which I had never done in my nine years in New York City!” Freeman, whose Broadway credits include A Strange Loop and Fat Ham, says. “I was getting offers. It was like, ‘Oh, I get it.’ I have to do the self stuff first so that the other stuff can be presented to me and I can receive it and I can be ready for it.”

One of the oddball, oft-overlooked canonical notes of the Wizard is a bit where Scarecrow innocently talks about “going both ways.” The fact that Wilson identifies as bisexual puts a nice, tidy little bow on that. “I can be whoever the hell I decide to be. And that’s power,” Wilson says. “Getting into a space where there is a queer maybe undertone or just hints of it throughout a sprinkle of it, I thought it was great, to be honest.”

The stylistic influences of Beyoncé’s Homecoming show at Coachella — which opens with the horn fanfare from The Wiz — are abundant. There are the dancers who bring the yellow brick road to life, dressed as southern HBCU drum majors, complete with tall, furry bearskin hats. Brady’s Wiz delivers flourish after flourish with a cape, mace, and top hat that call back to the deceitful, feel-good chicanery of The Music Man as much as FAMU’s Marching 100. This revival was also choreographed by JaQuel Knight, the man who choreographed Homecoming and the music videos for “Formation” and “Single Ladies.” No wonder The Wiz feels like a show aimed squarely at the viewing pleasures and discernment of Queen Bey and her progeny; there is a true sense of shared creative DNA.

Photo: Elliott Jerome Brown

A high collar, striped afro, and high-heeled platform boots made De Shield’s originating turn as the Wiz into something indelible (yet another detail vindicating Holder’s vision), while Richard Pryor’s Wiz of the 1978 film, once unmasked, is memorable as a shrunken, whimpering pajama-clad normie. In 2015, NBC aired a live broadcast performance featuring a cross-dressed Queen Latifah as the Wiz, enjoying all the unchecked, unquestioned power charismatic men are able to occupy with little friction—well, at least until they’re revealed to be hucksters. For Brady, playing the Wiz is an artistic homecoming that allows him to fully own his capabilities as a theater savant who shares Robin Williams’s peripatetic comic energy. While he attained celebrity as a standout on the television improv comedy show Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Brady has always seemed most at home on the stage, in front of a theater audience, whether as Lola in Kinky Boots or spitting rhymes in Freestyle Love Supreme. “My Wiz is definitely part actor, part magician, part flim-flam man, with a little bit of Willy Wonka thrown in,” says Brady. Once he’s revealed as a con artist imposter, Brady takes all that energy and stuffs it into the preferred uniform of middle-age zaddies the world over: a track suit.

Tinman’s (Phillip Johnson Richardson) backwards cap calls to mind the Fresh Prince. And Cox’s Glinda? Think feathered sleeves that recall Yoncé’s stagewear at the 2018 Global Citizens Festival in South Africa.

Much like Shuffle Along, the 1921 grandparent of all Black Broadway shows, this revival’s road to the Great White Way did not begin not with a triumphant run of performances at one of New York’s storied downtown theaters. It was refined on the road — just like the original Broadway run. For the show’s company of travel-tested newcomers, that meant tour stops in Des Moines, Baltimore, Atlanta, Cleveland, San Francisco, Tempe, Arizona, Greenville, South Carolina, and more. Yes, they’re very happy to be on Broadway, but chatting with the cast, one gets the sense that they’re also happy simply to be sleeping in the same place for a few months. Because this revival kicked off with a national tour, the show’s set pieces were designed for a variety of stage sizes and dimensions. When our protagonists finally arrive at the Emerald City, we see how designer Daniel Brodie has rendered it in projections and video. It was a cost-effective method to create the world of Oz that can quickly scale up or down, but also a way to pay homage to the culture — each piece of architecture is shaped like a different Afrocentric hair style. And the Wiz sits upon a throne that appears to be encased in a large green perfume bottle topped with a crown of afro picks.

On Amber: GABRIELA HEARST Stephanie Blazer, Vesta Pant and Albruna Shirt, at BVLGARI Divas’ Dream Earrings Set, at ROGER VIVIER Viv’ Canard Slingback Pumps, at On Schele: CAROLINA HERRERA Resort 2024 Princess Seam Coat with Flower Detail & Raffia, at DRIES CRIEL Brute Pendant Earrings and Flux II Ring, at MANOLO BLAHNIK Chaos Black Patent Leather Ankle Strap Sandals, at Photo: Elliott Jerome Brown

Across venues however, what remains consistent is that tapping one’s foot along to the familiar rhythms of “Ease on Down the Road,” or “You Can’t Win” still comes wrapped up, by the show’s end, with a big dose of sweet, full-throated nostalgia and a palpable journey toward self-belief. And that’s because, even when you strip away the costuming and all the other candy-like elements of The Wiz, there’s a soundtrack — or in this case, a forthcoming cast recording — that inspires the same kind of imagination that animated, enchanted, and even frightened a 3-year-old Betts.

“When I first did the Lion in sixth grade, I was a gay black boy from Miami, Florida who came from the church who was not able to be who I fully was,” Freeman says. “So the fact that I get to revisit this role, being who I am and comfortable in my skin and getting to tell this story from a different perspective is beautiful and rewarding to me … you can learn to love yourself. The world will open up for you and you’re going to have to do things that scare you, and that’s okay.”

Wayne Brady and Nichelle Lewis on Striving for Excellence in ‘The Wiz’

The veteran and the newcomer each had their own fears as they joined the Broadway revival of the beloved all-Black musical.

A portrait of a man and a woman who are sitting behind a green screen, which is seen at left.
Nichelle Lewis and Wayne Brady in his dressing room at the Marquis Theater in Manhattan.Credit…Justin J Wee for The New York Times

By Salamishah Tillet for the New York Times May 27, 2024

“That show was so Black,” my 8-year-old whispered after we saw “The Wiz” on Broadway. He hadn’t made this observation last fall after seeing a performance of the show in Baltimore, during the national tour that preceded this revival. So I was curious: What had changed, and why was this iteration more culturally resonant for him than even the 1978 movie starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson or NBC’s 2015 “The Wiz Live!” special that I’d screened for him.

I suspected my son was drawn to this version’s colloquial expressions (“All I got to do is stay Black and die,” Evillene tells Dorothy), choreography (ranging from Atlanta street dancing to South African amapiano) and its casting of Wayne Brady as the Wiz, who greets the Scarecrow and the Tinman with a dap. (Brady will depart the production on June 12.)

A caped man in a top hat stands atop stairs with his arms raised. Four women are standing or lunging around him, with their arms raised.
Wayne Brady as the Wiz in the show’s Broadway revival.Credit…Richard Termine for The New York Times
A young woman in a short blue dress is standing onstage with three men, who are costumed to look like a lion, a scarecrow and a tin man.
Lewis, who is making her Broadway debut, with Kyle Ramar Freeman as a glammed up Lion and, in the background, Avery Wilson as the Scarecrow and Phillip Johnson Richardson as the Tinman.Credit…Richard Termine for The New York Times

“The Wiz,” an all-Black incarnation of “The Wizard of Oz,” premiered on Broadway in 1975 with Stephanie Mills as Dorothy. The revival’s creative team — including the director Schele Williams and the comedian Amber Ruffin, who updated the book — have said that they wanted this version to reflect the richness of Black American history and contemporary culture.

The show features a cast of newcomers, including Nichelle Lewis, whose TikTok performance of “Home” helped land her an audition for the role of Dorothy. Brady, who made his Broadway debut 20 years ago in “Chicago,” offers up a charismatic Wiz who will do (almost) anything to leave Oz and, in Wayne’s back story, return to his loved ones.

During a recent interview, Lewis and Brady shared their history with the show, how they overcame their fears of joining this production, and the beauty of staging an all-Black musical on Broadway today. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

Wayne, you joined the cast after a national tour, and, Nichelle, this is your Broadway debut. How did you prepare?

NICHELLE LEWIS I’m very nervous all the time. But I think it’s a good thing. Wayne said the other day, “If you weren’t nervous, it’d probably be bad.” For me, having those nerves is humbling. I wouldn’t say that I have all of this confidence, but I feel at peace and at home.

WAYNE BRADY Jumping into a show like this was jumping into a game of double Dutch. My default Wayne will always be the 10-year-old Wayne, who is a loner, plays by himself, listens to musical theater and writes because he doesn’t fit in. So I tell myself, “Oh, I don’t know all these people, and they already like each other.” But these things are always all in our head. Then you go, “Come on now. You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t supposed to be here, and this is your thing.” Now, this is my fourth Broadway show, so my job is to be here to support my cast.

“The Wiz” is known for its iconic performances, on the stage and screen. How did your predecessors influence your performance?

LEWIS When I got the call, the first thing I did was watch this YouTube recording of Stephanie Mills doing the show. Every time she sang, it was so soulful that I could feel it through the screen. Then I watched a few clips of Diana Ross. If you watch the video of her singing “Home,” it’s as if she’s talking directly to you. So I wanted to take the genuineness and make sure I put that into this Dorothy.

BRADY As a kid, I didn’t only focus on Richard Pryor [as The Wiz], I just loved the whole thing. Later, once I started performing, I said, “Well, if it ever comes around, I want to be the Tinman or the Scarecrow.” And one time, I was even hired to be the Tinman for Des McAnuff’s [2006] production at La Jolla Playhouse, but I ended up doing another TV show instead.

Given that it is a beloved classic, how did you ensure the uniqueness of this adaptation?

LEWIS My Dorothy is 15, and even though she does have her Aunt Em, she still doesn’t feel like she has someone there for her. It’s kind of a teenager thing. It is important for Dorothy to find all of these different people on her journey who are going through similar things and trying to be comfortable in their skin. My goal was to create this person who is growing, and be able to see that those changes are in her voice, within her body, and just her being.

BRADY When Schele called me to do it, we had long talks about the Wiz. I knew this version would be different because of her and Amber’s approach to Dorothy, and the heroes, and their journey. Dorothy does not meet three older people who guide her. Instead, these characters are all similar in age, so by extension, the Wiz had to be different. Is he scamming them right off the top? Is he being genuine with how effusive he is? We had those talks because I wanted to shape this guy so he wasn’t unrepentant.

A portrait of a woman, who is wearing gold hoop earrings and a jean jacket, and a man, who is sitting below her and wearing a blue shirt.
“A big message of this production was just to spread love for yourself, no matter who you are or where you come from,” Lewis said of the production’s inclusivity.Credit…Justin J Wee for The New York Times

After seeing it on Broadway, my 8-year-old commented how culturally Black he thought your show was.

BRADY Mission accomplished! It’s beautiful that he felt that because it’s unapologetically Black. It’s funny to me that there are times when we say unapologetically Black or Black excellence, it’s triggering for some people. Some people ask, “Why can’t it just be excellent?” I dare say we’ve been more than excellent.

LEWIS I wish I had seen a show where I thought that as a kid. I never remember seeing a show and being like, “That was so Black,” and saying it in a positive way before, unfortunately. I grew up in a small town in Virginia and was often asked, “Why does your hair look like that?” That’s a very different tone from: “That’s so Black. I want to be up there, too. Look at them.” I wish that somebody would have made me feel that way.

Critics have also applauded it for how inclusive and queer this version is.

LEWIS That was a big part of Schele’s vision. In “Brand New Day,” she wanted to have all the colors for the L.G.B.T.Q. community. A big message of this production was just to spread love for yourself, no matter who you are or where you come from.

BRADY It’s definitely a vibe. This is a “Wiz” for this time, and it is so open to everybody and everything — that in and of itself makes it beautifully that queer.

What do you think the legacy of your show will be, particularly for African American musicals on Broadway?

BRADY The original “Wiz” was a definitive product of the 1970s in its glam and excess. André De Shields, who played the Wiz, said something to me on opening night. He said, “When we did the original ‘Wiz,’ it was the first time that these people had come to see all these Black faces on the stage, they tried to put us under all of this stuff. So you are lucky because you can just come onstage and be beautiful.” In André De Shields’s version, they worked with furs, leather and lights to claim a place in the world. Ours is of this time: We have this place and can just be. From the queerness onstage to the costumes, the musicality, light and bricks. I think instead of fighting to be seen, this “Wiz” is, “Oh, you see us.”

LEWIS I hope the little Black girls in the audience feel beautiful. I hope they feel they can be whoever they want and be proud of that. If I had seen this show where I see braids, I see Afros, I see all kinds of different hairstyles — I hope she will be proud of her hair and curl texture and will do whatever she wants to do. I just hope that she feels she can do whatever she wants in this world.

The Fled Collective PRESENTS Step Kids: A Developmental Workshop

NEW YORK CITY, October 3, 2023 — The Fled Collective will present its second developmental workshop of its 2023 Season this month. Step Kids is written by Tyrone L Robinson with additional music by Postell Pringle and directed by Raz Golden. Tickets are available for performances on October 26th, 27th and 28th at 7:00 PM at The Flea Theater. The performance on October 27 is Black Theater Night followed by a talk-back with the cast and creative team.

Tickets are $15 and will be available through Eventbrite.

ABOUT: Step Kids is a one act hip hop musical that tells the story of a group of college
students auditioning for the elite and competitive step dance team, The All Stars. Competition is tough and no mis-step goes unnoticed by “The Voice of God” (Erin Cherry). After much scrutiny and questioning, our heroine, Yessica (Kamiah Vickers) shares her love of Step. In her explanation, she goes into the history of Step Dancing in America and its African Roots, leading her to find her own voice.

The audience gets a beautifully recounted history lesson on the history of Step in America along with a High energy show full of music and dance. In an effort to bring step to communities across NYC, this past spring, The Fled Collective hosted a Step workshop at Kings Elementary School in Brownsville, NY, where scholars ages 5-10 were given firsthand the opportunity to learn the vocabulary of basic Step routines ahead of their graduating recital, Stepping Up! The goal of this workshop was to teach the students about the history of Step and the significant role it played throughout Black History and how it evolved into the artform it is today. Following a brief presentation of the history of Step (which you can view HERE), the students were taught some basic stepping phrases and ultimately the workshop will end with the students having learned a short routine.

Book, Music & Lyrics by Tyrone L. Robinson
Additional Music & Lyrics by Postell Pringle
Choreography by James Alonzo White