'The Wiz' review — musical revival celebrates a history of Black creativity and culture

Read our review of The Wiz on Broadway, a 50th-anniversary revival of the 1974 musical, now starring Wayne Brady as the Wiz and directed by Schele Williams.

Kyle Turner
Kyle Turner

There’s a lot to enjoy in the revival of The Wiz, the “super soul musical” retelling of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz first staged on Broadway in 1975. There are sparkling costumes by Sharen Davis, additional book material by Amber Ruffin, and a charming ensemble including Avery Wilson (Scarecrow), Phillip Johnson Richardons (Tinman), Kyle Ramar Freeman (Lion), and newcomer Nichelle Lewis (Dorothy). But the subtext is most compelling about this revival.

The last few years on Broadway have seen more efforts to make audiences more inclusive, with a 2023 report identifying 29% of attendees as Black, Indigenous, or people of color. As recently as 2019, Black audiences made up only 2.9% of Broadway theatregoers. But the culture of Broadway has always been, and continues to be, shaped by Black creativity and cultural expression, from the rise of ballroom to the return of house music in a post-COVID world.

The Wiz firmly reconnects the disco and Motown sounds that were coming out of other, white-led 1970s shows (like Grease and Thank God It’s Friday) back to their Black roots. It's compelling that, 50 years later, the musical returns to subtly reconsider the ways those sounds have changed. The Wiz is at its best when it revels in these Black musical styles and choreography by JaQuel Knight, from trap-influenced moments to bits of Afrobeats to flourishes of ballroom movement. In these sequences of ecstasy, it feels like these forms of artistic expression are coming home.

The Wiz summary

Dorothy arrives back on the farm discouraged and feeling like an outcast when her schoolmates tell her she doesn’t belong, as if cementing her inability to make friends or carve a path out for herself. But when a tornado hits the house and drops her in the bizarre land of Oz, it’s up to her and her new friends, who seek a brain, heart, and courage from the Wiz (Wayne Brady), to brave the uncertain world and find those things for themselves.

The show's cast also features Deborah Cox as Glinda and Melody A. Betts as Aunt Em and Evillene.

What to expect at The Wiz

The border of the stage displays African art featuring sketch-like triangles and little rectangles resembling sound speakers, nodding to the simple and expressionist set design by Hannah Beachler. The ensemble bounce off one another with ease and infuse their characters with personality and humor.

The maximalist approach that the show clearly aspires to is not quite executed with enough actual stagecraft, but a lot of that spectacle gets folded into the giant video design by Daniel Brodie, which, although imaginative, feels like it undermines some of the show’s inherent magic.

What audiences are saying about The Wiz

Out of 196 ratings, The Wiz has an 84% approval rating from audiences on Show-Score at the time of publication. Audiences largely praised the cast and classic material but shared mixed opinions on the new elements of this production.

  • “Stunning vocals and choreo. The most fun I've had at a show in a long time.” - Show-Score user Sondheimin
  • “A fun production of The Wiz with a stellar cast & excellent choreography.” - Show-Score user TylerH1190
  • “The show just seems very amateur. The actors were talented. I won’t discredit that, but it’s just totally underwhelming.” Show-Score user NewToNYC

Read more audience reviews of The Wiz on Show-Score.

Who should see The Wiz

  • It’s hard to understate the legacy of a song like “Home,” but if you want to see Nichelle Lewis make her mark on that track, definitely see the show.
  • Knight’s choreography paired with new musical arrangements by Joshua Joubert, Allen Rene Louis, Adam Blackstone, and Terence Baughan are the reason to grab a ticket.
  • If you enjoy Amber Ruffin’s clever joke writing from The Amber Ruffin Show and Late Night with Seth Meyers, her book revisions guarantee lots of fun.

Learn more about The Wiz on Broadway

While this production, directed by Schele Williams, could have been more spectacularly maximalist (not relying on a video background), its gentle updates to the music as an indication of The Wiz’s legacy nonetheless offer an entertaining time at the theatre.

Learn more and get The Wiz tickets on New York Theatre Guide. The Wiz is at the Marquis Theatre.

Additional The Wiz content

Photo credit: Kyle Ramar Freeman as Lion, Nichelle Lewis as Dorothy, Wayne Brady as The Wiz, Phillip Johnson Richardson as Tinman, and Avery Wilson as Scarecrow in The Wiz. (Photo by Jeremy Daniel)

Originally published on

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