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THE WIZ (article first published : 2006-05-21)

This year’s annual Unilever Young Performer’s Musical will be the vibey, high-energy The Wiz – inspired by the well-known tale of The Wizard of Oz - which will take place at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre in July.

The Wiz follows the last five successful Unilever Young Performers Musicals, Curtain Up, One Voice, Grease, Oliver!and last year’s Fiddler on the Roof.

In conjunction with theatre manager Jackie Cunniffe and the Elizabeth Sneddon team, producer Linda Van der Veen of Snazzi Events and Entertainment once again has a professional team on board with director Themi Venturas, vocal director Charon Williams-Ros, choreographer Janet Hare and musical director Dawn Selby assisted by Callie Thompson. Peter Court will design the costumes and sets.

The Wiz is essentially an African American adaptation of The Wizard of Oz that tries to capture the essence of the inner-city experience. Based on The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz by L Frank Baum, the story is the same as that which we all know by heart. Dorothy is blown by a tornado into Munchin Land where she meets the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion. They all go off to see the Wizard of Oz, who turns out to be a phoney but they all start believing in themselves and live happily ever after.

The Wiz started out on stage - the Broadway musical opened in January 1975 with Stephanie Mills as Dorothy. The production was directed by Geoffrey Holder and ran for four years and over 1,600 performances, winning seven Tony Awards including Best Musical. The most popular song from the production was Ease on Down the Road, sung by the characters as they dance down the Yellow Brick Road. It never performed on London's West End but a handful of amateur and semi-professional productions have appeared in Britain.

The movie version came a few years later in 1978 and was directed by Sidney Lumet and written by Joel Schumacher. The cast included Diana Ross (Dorothy), Michael Jackson (Scarecrow) and Richard Pryor (The Wiz). Quincy Jones served as the musical supervisor and music producer for the film, marking his first collaboration with Michael Jackson.

The Durban 2006 stage version features the cream of local high school talent of young performers who made it through a gruelling auditions process.

The Wiz takes place at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre from July 7 to 23. More information from Shelley Stevens at Snazzi Events on 031 303 4589, fax 031 303 8855 or email: snazzi1@lantic.net

Booking is through Computicket.




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