Bringing “The Wiz” back to the regional stage after only a little more than a year is not just a passion or personal favorite for West Side Theatre director Mark Spencer.
“The audience response was so great that we had to vow to consider bringing it back, and this was the perfect time to do it,” he said. “When they make those types of requests, we want to adhere to that.”
Running May 24-26, “The Wiz” brings the tale of Dorothy, the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow to an urban setting. The story was introduced to the masses more than a century ago in L. L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" and in a silver screen classic in 1939 as “The Wizard of Oz.”
“The Wiz” made its debut on Broadway in 1975. Featuring now-staples such as “Believe in Yourself,” “A Brand New Day” and “Ease on Down the Road,” the show took home more than a half dozen Tony Awards in its debut year, including Best Musical.
Diana Ross, Michael Jackson and Richard Pryor ushered “Wiz” to the big screen to great success in 1978, and four years ago, NBC broadcast a staging of the musical for its annual live production.
“It’s a wonderful piece,” Spencer said.
Last February, Spencer brought “Wiz” to the Theatre Northwest stage at Indiana University Northwest. Many of the cast members of that production have returned for this “Wiz” presentation.
Taylor Iman is Dorothy, Ryan Robinson is the Scarecrow, Dwayne Coleman Jr. is the Tin Man, Lehman Grey is the Cowardly Lion and Dwayne Coleman Sr. is the title character in West Side Theatre’s Staging of “Wiz.”
The cast, which includes Danielle Duncan as Aunt Em and Altovise Ferguson as Glenda the Good Witch, will be augmented by a 150-member chorus, who will also join in on the action onstage.
While it proved to be a success with area audiences, Spencer intends to ease his productions of “The Wiz” down the road for the foreseeable future.
“It’s run its course,” Spencer said. “We may revisit it in 10 years. We always like to keep it fresh. Of course, if we’re (asked to give) a command performance of it by the governor, we would be honored to do it. But we want to continue to explore other creative works so the community is continuously exposed to new and exciting works.”
“I need to get out of Emerald City and go to another destination,” Spencer added, laughing.