Category Archives: Oz Theatre

Oz in the News 3.21.21

Brand New Day In an interview from 1977, Ben Harney, who played the Tin Man in the Broadway production of The Wiz, said that ‘for the first time in a long time people were getting Black theatre that wasn’t hitting them over the head with anger and militancy. This was a show that had universality, and it was fun.’ But after the film was released, white writers compared it to the so-called ‘militant’ productions of the era. Charles Champlin complained in his review that Lumet had directed the film ‘as if it were Roots instead of a musical fantasy film with (new) satiric overtones’. In truth the film fuses both sensibilities, and it’s this that made it unwieldy and hard to classify. That the more strident Roots was a TV sensation and became a cultural phenomenon, while The Wiz failed horribly, says something about the public lack of appetite for subtlety or complexity in Black productions. ‘That music – maybe you’d call it “sophisticated funk” – is a combination of all the music I ever knew,’ Charlie Smalls told the LA Times in 1976. ‘I wrote it all from my heart. The lyrics – they’re my life story – I became the characters to create the characters. I used everything that happened to me on my way here. And believe me, some of it wasn’t so good before it got turned into a song.’

Oz in the News 1.5.21

Celebrate More Than 45 Years of The Wiz on Broadway The Wiz, Charlie Smalls’ musical adaption of The Wizard of Oz, opened at the Majestic Theatre January 5, 1975. The production played 15 previews and 1,672 performances before closing January 28, 1979. The musical earned eight Tony nominations, winning 7 including best musical. The original production starred Stephanie Mills as Dorothy, Tiger Haynes as the Tinman, Ted Ross as the Lion, Hinton Battle as the Scarecrow, Clarice Taylor as Addaperle, Mabel King as Evillene, André De Shields as the Wiz, and Dee Dee Bridgewateer as Glinda alongside Tasha Thomas, Phylicia Ayers-Allen, Leettie Battle, Danny Beard, Phillip Bond, Leslie Butler, Pi Douglass, Ronald Dunham, Wendy Edmead,Frank Floyd, Rodney Green, Sam Harkness, Eugene Little, Eleanor McCoy, Frances Morgan, Joni Palmer, John Parks, Howard Porter, Jozella Reed, Kenneth Scott, Evelyn Thomas, Andy Torres, Carl Weaver, and Ralph Wilcox. Rounding out the cast were Butterfly McQueen and Arnetia Walker as standbys and Cynthia Ashby and Otis Sallid as swings.

Oz in the News 12.17.20

Join Santa Claus on an audioventure from The Empty Space Most of us are well-acquainted with the traditional tales of St. Nick, but The Empty Space has a fresh take on the jolly old elf with the upcoming “The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus.” Director Jeremiah Heitman adapted the new audio play from the book by L. Frank Baum. Much like in his best-known work, “The Wizard of Oz,” Baum brings magic and adventure to the tale of a young Santa Claus. “I’m a huge fantasy fan, and I loved the way Baum intertwined the magical elements into his narrative to tell the story of such an iconic character,” Heitman wrote in an email. “The show doesn’t focus on the Santa Claus we know, it tells the tale of his youth.”

Oz in the News 12.5.20

There’s no place like home This December, award-winning site-responsive and leading digital theatre-makers Creation Theatre present a surreal and anarchic adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with all the storytelling, songs, magic and togetherness that Oxford’s largest producing theatre company’s Christmas shows are traditionally known for. Creation Theatre is Oxfordshire’s largest producing theatre company, specialising in classic texts and unusual locations for over 24 years. In April 2020 the organisation moved swiftly to master the digital stage, to broadcast live performances online via Zoom. Audiences across the globe will be invited to escape reality and journey together to the magical Emerald land; where, along with the Scarecrow, Lion, Tin Man and many more dreamlike characters, they will work together to get Dorothy back home. 28 shows will be performed LIVE online in real-time, across two weeks from the 19 December to 3 January.

Oz in the News 10.23.20

“Marionette Land” is a feature length documentary about Robert Brock and his magical marionette theatre in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. For 30 years Robert Brock has entertained families with his creative and unique one-man marionette productions of classics like Wizard of Oz and Peter Pan. Brock also produces grown-up shows where he performs as famous divas like Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, and Carol Channing. Robert lives above his puppet theatre with his mom and business partner, Mary Lou, and he must now face new challenges as he enters the self-proclaimed third act of his life. This film goes into his unique and disciplined creative process from making puppets to preparing for shows, Robert Brock does it all… even tap dancing.

Oz in the News 10.6.20

Wicked Cast Reminds Fans to Vote with Reimagined Lyrics in New Video: ‘You Can Change Things’ In a new video, which PEOPLE can exclusively share, the entire cast of Wicked comes together (virtually) to remind fans to cast their ballot this November — and it features cameos from Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel! “I’m all mixelated up!” sings Brittney Johnson, the first-ever Black actress to play Wicked‘s Glinda, in the music video. “I really want to vote but it’s confusifying me.” The nearly-four minute video features appearances from some of the musical’s biggest stars including Alexandra Billings, Lindsay Pearce, Jennafer Newberry and Konrad Adderley.

Oz in the News 9.3.20

Timothy Graphenreed Dies: ‘The Wiz’ Song Composer Was 68 Chiefly composed by Charlie Smalls, with a book by William F. Brown, The Wiz included several musical numbers by others, including Graphenreed, who wrote, with George Faison, the dance numbers “Emerald City Ballet (Pssst)” and, with Harold Wheeler, “Tornado.” Graphenreed also did the dance arrangements for the musical. (The Luther Vandross composition “Everybody Rejoice/A Brand New Day” was performed in both the Broadway and film versions; the Graphenreed numbers were not included in the film, directed by Sidney Lumet with a cast headed by Diana Ross and Michael Jackson.) As an accompanist and/or musical arranger, Graphenreed collaborated with performers including White, LaChanze, Jennifer Holliday, Phylicia Rashad, Melba Moore, Valerie Simpson and Nick Ashford, Darlene Love, Morgan Freeman, Ben Vereen and Peobo Bryson, among many others.

Online gala offers locals an escape from a drab reality to the Emerald City  Just in time for Halloween, The Source LGBT+ Center will be holding an online fundraising gala on Oct. 17. Themed “Escape to Oz,” guests of the gala will be emailed a link for the live “secret” broadcast, and the event will be available to the public the next day on Facebook, at The Source’s page Event details are at Follow the yellow brick road for an evening to somewhere fantastic, including catered food, drinks, music, prizes, surprise celebrities, live entertainment, auctions, Halloween contests, and Oz-themed escape room puzzles all from the comfort of your own home. Those interested in participating in the online event can register to raise funds as an individual or as part of a team. Reach a minimum of $125 per person and you’re off to see the Wizard at the “gayla.” Keep fundraising to earn even more amazing prizes and other “little pretties!” Sign up by clicking here:

Oz in the News 7.13.20

OZ.ORG Will Premiere Online as Part of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival Logins and cyphers and software, oh my! Kansas-raised Dorothee is unexplainably sent a package containing a laptop and a cryptic note signed “LFB”. When she unlocks the computer, she is suddenly transported into Can you help Dorothee reach the Wizard, save Oz, and find her way home? OZ.ORG is an interactive, virtual play based on L. Frank Baum’s 1900 novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” as well as MGM’s 1939 Technicolor Oscar-winning film “The Wizard of Oz”. Kusching’s play is a dystopian, futuristic, and technological spin on the beloved children’s classic. OZ.ORG will be performed live and include the opportunity for audience engagement. Each show has a limited number of participants, and audience members will have the chance to actually partake in the adventure. The audience will interact with the cast through the live chat and can turn on their webcams to join the show. There will even be the chance for a solo-audience experience with the Wizard of Oz himself.

Oz in the News 7.3.20

Eva Noblezada, Nathan Lee Graham, George Salazar, More Set for Night of a Thousand Judys Virtual Concert The eighth annual Night of A Thousand Judys, a Pride concert benefiting The Ali Forney Center, will take place as a streaming online event July 14 at 8 PM. Written and hosted by Justin Sayre, the evening will include Tony winner Lena Hall (Hedwig and the Angry Inch), MAC winner Natalie Douglas, Tony nominee Eva Noblezada (Hadestown), Nathan Lee Graham (Zoolander), Tony nominee Adam Pascal (Rent), Tony nominee Beth Malone (Fun Home), Tony winner Alice Ripley (Next to Normal), George Salazar (Be More Chill), Ann Harada (Avenue Q), T. Oliver Reid (Hadestown), Jessica Vosk (Wicked), Spencer Day, and Bright Light Bright Light.The Ali Forney Center is the nation’s largest agency dedicated to helping LGBTQ+ homeless youth. Watch the concert and donate to the cause at

Dorothy Blazes New Trails In Grand Rapids MN Hometown Of Judy Garland This summer follow along with Visit Grand Rapids new campaign, Dorothy Blazes New Trails. While we know there is “no place like home”, we also know that people are feeling cooped up at home and want to get out to explore and seek safe places to find new adventure. This campaign will feature Dorothy (played by actress, Chelsey Johnson) and her black lab side kick, Tioga exploring Grand Rapids, MN – the home of Judy Garland (aka Frances Ethel Gumm). Each week the campaign will highlight safe and fun places to seek outdoor adventure, places to shop, places to dine, and places to stay. Follow along with the Dorothy Blazes New Trails each week on Visit Grand Rapids social media pages: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. Visit Grand Rapids will do weekly featuring images of Dorothy, her trusty side kick, Tioga will be featured at iconic outdoor locations in the Grand Rapids. Dorothy will be joined by her Wizard of Oz Friends (tin man, scarecrow and the cowardly lion) in the coming weeks. The friends (real-life people that represent these Wizard of Oz characters) will head out on adventure together, while enjoying safe social distancing. In July Visit Grand Rapids will partner with area businesses and launch a Dorothy Blazes New Trails Contest where daily clues will be given and daily prizes will be awarded. There will be a designated Contest page on where people will be sent for photo clues of Dorothy and her friends at different outdoor locations, area attractions, businesses and places to eat & drink. Each day people will be asked to comment on Facebook and Instagram of the clues location and then at the end of the day Visit Grand Rapids staff will randomly draw a winner from those people whose comment was correct.

Talents of local voice actor recognized Georgia Craven recently received a Best Leading Actress nomination for The Audio Theatre Central Seneca Awards for her role as Dorothy Gale in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Craven is a Grade 12 student at Chatham-Kent Secondary School and has extensive experience in stage performing. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, however, marks Craven’s first lead part in an audio theatre production. In addition to the dialogue she had to read, Craven also had to perform two original songs as part of the production. The production was put on by Chatham’s Voices in the Wind Audio Theatre, which adapts popular literature works into full-cast audio productions using only voice actors and sound effects. Voices of the Wind Audio Theatre also received a nomination for Best Cover Art for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The winners will be announced in a live-stream broadcast on July 24 at 10 p.m. Snippets of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz are available on the Voices of the Wind Audio Theatre website and the complete 90-minute production is available for purchase on



Oz in the News 5.13.20

Virtual Wizard of Oz Con The first of its kind “Virtual Wizard of Oz Con,” celebrating all aspects of Oz, with a star-studded evening benefiting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. All in one night, Film Critic and Oz Historian Ryan Jay interviews some of the greatest celebrities ever to have entered the Emerald City. From “Wicked” to “The Wiz,” don’t miss this unique chance to “Return to Oz” and gain exclusive access behind the curtain of your favorite Ozzy adaptations. Those who reserve tickets now will have the chance to submit questions in advance! *Featuring*:Kari Wahlgren (voice of Dorothy/Queen Ozma, Boomerang’s Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz, Jessica in Rick & Morty, Zatanna in DC Superhero Girls), Todrick Hall (Straight Outta Oz, Broadway’s Kinky Boots, Chicago, Waitress), Gregory Maguire (Author, WICKED), Rob Paulsen (voice of the Tin Man in Tom & Jerry The Wizard of Oz and Back to Oz, Pinky in Pinky and the Brain, Yakko in Animaniacs), Shanice Williams (Dorothy, NBC’s The Wiz Live, Perfect Harmony), Emma Ridley (Ozma, Disney’s Return to Oz), Danielle Paige (Author, Dorothy Must Die) and more!

13 ON YOUR SIDE wins Regional Murrow award for ‘Origin of Oz’ series  The series highlights how West Michigan played a role in L. Frank Baum’s legendary book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The four part series aired as a half hour special last year.