Ch. 25- THE WIZ

In This Episode


COMPOSER: Charlie Smalls

LYRICIST: Charlie Smalls

BOOK: William F. Brown

SOURCE: L. Frank Baum’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)

DIRECTOR: Geoffrey Holder


PRINCIPLE CAST: Andre DeShields (The Wiz), Mabel King (Evillene), Stephanie Mills (Dorothy), 

OPENING DATE: Jan 5, 1975

CLOSING DATE: Jan 28, 1979


SYNOPSIS: During a violent tornado, Dorothy is transported from Kansas to the magical land of Oz. In order to go back home she must first speak with The Wiz. Accompanied by her friends The Scarecrow, The Tin Man, and The Cowardly Lion, Dorothy begins an adventure down the Yellow Brick Road to meet the Wiz. 

Accessing the universal themes in L Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Wiz retold the classic story through a contemporary African-American lens. The show proved the potential for success in big-budget, fantasy stories with all Black casts. Jerrell L. Henderson traces the modes in which Black creatives and audiences were relegated to segregated theatres, how Black performers were cast in shows written by white individuals, and how marketing of musicals became focused on Black communities in relation to The Wiz

Jerrell L. Henderson is a Director and Puppeteer. Upcoming Puppet Short Films include, Hamlin: La Revue Sombre with Handmade Puppet Dreams and Diamond’s Dream with Chicago Children’s Theatre. He performed his signature puppetry piece, I Am The Bear, this fall with Chicago International Puppet Festival’s Living Room Tours. His shadow play, 3 American Myths: A Riff in Shadow & Light in 3 Rhythmic Movements was a finalist for a 2019 Jim Henson Foundation Grant. Recent directing credits include Mlima’s Tale with Griffin Theatre (Jeff Award Nomination for Direction and Best Play) and Thurgood with Walnut Street Theatre. Other credits include The River with BoHo Theatre, Untitled with Inis Nua (Barrymore Award nomination for Outstanding Direction of a Play) and Something Like A War: A New Musical with 11th Hour Theatre. He received an MFA in Directing from Northwestern University, is a member of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab (2012), an Artistic Associate of Black Lives, Black Words, and a Henson Foundation sponsored participant at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center National Puppetry Conference (2020).


Elam, Harry, and David Krasner. African American Performance and Theater History: A Critical Reader. 1st ed., Oxford University Press, 2001.

Hill, Errol, and James Hatch. A History of African American Theatre (Cambridge Studies in American Theatre and Drama, Series Number 18). Annotated, Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Sanders, Leslie Catherine. The Development of Black Theater in America: From Shadows to Selves. Reprint, LSU Press, 1989.

Simpson, Janice. “Pivotal Moments in Broadway’s Black History.” Playbill, 20 Feb. 2019,

Weta. “How Helen Hayes Helped Desegregate the National Theatre.” Boundary Stones: WETA’s Washington DC History Blog, 22 June 2016,

Woll, Allen. Black Musical Theatre: From Coontown to Dreamgirls. First Edition, Louisiana State Univ Pr, 1989.

The Wiz, Original Cast Recording, Atlantic Records (1975)

The Wiz by William F Brown and Charlie Smalls, published by Samuel French, Inc (1979)

The Wiz starring Michael Jackson and Diana Ross, directed by Sidney Lumet, Universal Pictures (1978)

The Wiz: Live! Starring Queen Latifah and Shanice Williams, directed by Matthew Diamond and Kenny Leon, NBC (2015)

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