The Wiz announces full cast: Orlando Jones and LaChanze join Ashanti



Orlando Jones will play 'The Wiz,' and Tony Award-winning actress LaChanze will play 'Glinda,' the good witch, in the Encores! Summer Stars production of The Wiz, starring Ashanti, opening at New York City Center on 18 Jun 2009, following previews from 12 Jun and running through to 5 Jul 2009.

'Glinda�s' sister-witches will include Tichina Arnold as 'Evillene' and Dawnn Lewis as 'Addaperle.' Easing down the road with Ashanti�s 'Dorothy' will be Joshua Henry as the 'Tinman,' James Monroe Iglehart as the 'Lion' and Christian White as the 'Scarecrow.'

The cast will also include Raymond Bennett, Tanya Birl, Darlesia Cearcy, Asmeret Ghebremichael, Angela Grovey, Ebony Haswell, Lauren Lim Jackson, Carl Lation, Maurice Lauchner, Jennifer Locke, Amy McClendon, Kenna Morris, John Eric Parker, Herman Payne, Ryan Rankine, Levensky Smith, Ephraim Sykes, Adrienne Warren, Daniel J. Watts, Juson Williams and Will Wingfield.

The Wiz, the 1974 rock and soul musical based on the beloved L. Frank Baum story about Dorothy and her adventures in Oz, will be the third New York City Center Encores! Summer Stars production.

The musical will be directed by Thomas Kail and choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler, the duo who brought the Tony-Award winning 'In the Heights' to Broadway last season.

The Wiz has a book by William F. Brown, music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls and orchestrations by Harold Wheeler. The original production was directed by Geoffrey Holder and choreographed by George Faison. It won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Choreography.

The Wiz is an all-black adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, told from the African-American perspective.

The original Broadway production of The Wiz opened at the Majestic Theatre on 5 Jan 1975, moved to the Broadway Theater on 25 May 1977, running for over four years for a total of 1,672 performances, and won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Choreography. It was directed by Geoffrey Holder and choreographed by George Faison, and starred Stephanie Mills, Hinton Battle, Tiger Haynes, Ted Ross, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Andre De Shields starred.

Orlando Jones (The Wiz) made his film debut in Barry Levinson's 'Liberty Heights.' Other film credits include 'Biker Boyz,' 'The Time Machine,' 'Bedazzled,' 'Say It Isn't So,' 'Double Take,' 'Magnolia,' 'New Jersey Turnpikes' and' Primeval.' His television credits include the role of 'Detective Cayman Bishop' on the ABC drama 'The Evidence,' his own late night talk show on FX called 'The Orlando Jones Show,' and appearances on the 'The Bernie Mac Show' and 'Girlfriends.' Jones was an original cast member of the Fox comedy series, 'MADtv' for two seasons, and was a writer for Fox�s 'Roc Live' and 'Sinbad.' On stage he appeared in the Pasadena Playhouse production of August Wilson�s 'Fences' opposite Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett.

LaChanze (Glinda) recently appeared in 'Inked Baby' at Playwrights Horizons, and received a Tony Award for her leading role in 'The Color Purple.' She made her Broadway debut in 'Uptown...It's Hot!,' directed by Maurice Hines and was next cast in the first international tour of 'Dreamgirls,' which finished with a run on Broadway.

Ashanti (Dorothy), who is making her stage debut, entered the music scene with her 2002 self-titled debut album, 'Ashanti.' The album landed at the No1 spot on both the Billboard Top 200 and R&B Album charts, and won the Grammy for Best Contemporary R&B Album. Simultaneously, Ashanti also secured the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart and the R&B/Hip Hop Singles & Tracks chart with her song, 'Foolish.' She made Billboard history by having her first three chart entries land in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 at the same time, becoming the first woman to accomplish this feat (which was previously attained only by the Beatles).

Ashanti�s film credits include 'Coach Carter,' Resident Evil Extinction,'' John Tucker Must Die' and 'Bride & Prejudice.' Her television credits include 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer,' 'The Muppets� Wizard of Oz,' 'Sabrina, the Teenage Witch,' and 'American Dreams,' in which she portrayed 'Dionne Warwick.'

Thomas Kail (Director) was nominated for a Tony Award for his direction of 'In the Heights.' Kail is artistic director and co-founder of Back House Productions (BHP), the resident theatre of New York City's The Drama Book Shop. BHP has developed many new works since its founding in 2001, including early versions of 'In the Heights' and Anne Nelson's 'Savages.'

Andy Blankenbuehler (Choreographer) won the Tony Award for his choreography of 'In the Heights.' He is choreographer of the upcoming Broadway production of '9 to 5,' and his work has also been seen in the Broadway revival of 'The Apple Tree' (starring Kristin Chenoweth) and the West End musical 'Desperately Seeking Susan.'

Encores! Summer Stars, now in its third season, is an expanded version of City Center�s acclaimed Encores! series. Summer Stars is dedicated to presenting Broadway classics in staged, limited-run productions. The previous Encores! Summer Stars productions were the critically-acclaimed 'Gypsy' starring Patti LuPone, which was followed by last summer�s 'Damn Yankees' starring Sean Hayes and Jane Krakowski.

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