Billie Silvey
July 2013
Ease on Down
Ted Ross (from left in inset) plays the cowardly lion; Diana Ross (with dog Toto), Dorothy; Nipsey Russell,
the tin man; and Michael Jackson, the scarecrow in the musical
The Wiz.  The yellow brick road (below)
leads to an emerald city that looks suspiciously like New York.
Follow the yellow brick road to an urban version of the timeless story
from an African American perspective.  The adaptation of
The Wizard
of Oz
with an all-black cast won 1975's Tony for Best Musical and
Best Original Score and the
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding
Musical, Outstanding Music and Outstanding Lyrics.  

Songs were by
Charlie Smalls, Timothy Graphenreed and Harold
Wheeler, Zachary Walzer and Luther Vandross.

Diana Ross played Dorothy, a shy Harlem schoolteacher; Michael
Jackson was a scarecrow in a junkyard; Nipsey Russell, the Tin Man, a
turn-of-the-century mechanical man at an
old amusement park; and Ted
Ross, the cowardly lion, a statue outside a library.

Lena Horne appeared as Glinda the Good; Richard Pryor as the
Wizard; and
Mabel King as Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West.

The Broadway musical played for four years and 1,672 performances,
going on to play in London, San Diego and the Netherlands.

Sidney Lumet directed a film based on the musical in 1978 by Motown
Productions and Universal Pictures.  

Dorothy leaves her large family dinner to chase her dog into a
snowstorm.  She's swept up by a cyclone and carried to Oz, a
run-down version of Manhattan, where the munchkins are living graffiti,
a subway station comes alive, and the flying monkeys are a motorcycle
gang employed as enforcers by Evillene, the sweatshop owner.
Over the Rainbow