Sweet thing, let me tell you about The Wiz. It's an African-American musical adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, written by L. Frank Baum, that is set in New York City in the 1970's. Its great use of funk music, inspiring themes, and wonderful choreography makes it a feel good time for all. The musical was so well received, 7 Tony Awards, that after just three years on Broadway a film adaptation was released. The film starred Diana Ross as Dorothy, the late Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow, Nipsey Russell as the Tin man, and Ted Ross as the Cowardly Lion. At first glance, The Wiz is just another adaptation of the famous Oz story that has been told through many medians, but it represents so much more. The Wiz takes a story that is primarily associated with the white community and gives it an African-American spin. The movie, as well as the musical, are artworks inspired by the Black Arts Movement.
So what, might you ask, are the differences between the beloved Victor Fleming adaptation of The Wizard of Oz and Sidney Lumet's The Wiz? Well, let's start with Dorothy. In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy is a Kansas farm-girl around the age of 16 played by Judy Garland. In The Wiz, Dorothy is a 24 year old kindergarten teacher from Harlem played by Diana Ross. Munchkinland is also represented very differently. In The Wizard of Oz, the munchkins are rather sweet and very reserved compared to the munchkins in The Wiz. The munchkins in The Wiz, much like those in The Wizard of Oz, are liberated from the Wicked Witch of the East, however in The Wiz the munchkins are physically liberated because they were turned into graffiti by the Wicked Witch. As you might have guessed, the setting of Oz differs in both movies. The Wizard of Oz shows Oz as country side that leads to the Emerald City. However, The Wiz depicts Oz as a less privileged part of a city, modeled after NYC, that leads to a grand, elegant Emerald City, filmed at the World Trade Towers. With the use of a city setting changes some of the plot of the movie, such as the poppy field. In The Wiz, the poppies are not flowers, instead they are represented as prostitutes.
But, the differences don't end there. I'll blog about the others later. But, in the mean time, check out the movie trailer.