Oz in the News 12.1.15

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‘The Wiz,’ With Added Street Cred, Heads for TV and Broadway  Neil Meron and Craig Zadan, who also produced the last two NBC broadcasts and have been trying to get “The Wiz!” made since 1998, knew that it needed more than a little tinkering to stick. They wanted the score, by Charlie Smalls, to sound more pop, and the choreography, by George Faison, to seem slicker. They brought in the choreographer and video director Fatima Robinson, known recently for her work with Pharrell Williams. For serious theater cred, they hired Kenny Leon, whose Broadway bio includes “A Raisin in the Sun” and “Fences,” to direct. He, in turn, brought in Harvey Fierstein to revamp the book. Yes, that Harvey Fierstein. Mr. Fierstein took the meeting while contending that he was not the right fit. “‘The Wiz’ is as culturally important as ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ was to me as a kid,” Mr. Fierstein said. “When I saw a stage full of Jews, it changed my perspective on life. I assumed the experience would be like that for an African-American kid at the theater, to see a show that was created by African-Americans, and I said, that’s why I can’t write it.” But when Mr. Leon reminded him that the show’s original book writer, William F. Brown, is white, Mr. Fierstein signed on.(In a phone conversation, Mr. Brown, 87, said he still held the rights to the book for Broadway with his wife and co-writer, Tina Tippit, and was dismayed not to be involved in the TV version. He did see a rehearsal at the invitation of Cirque du Soleil, and though he conceded that Mr. Fierstein did not make too many tweaks, “I like my version better,” he said.)

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