Ashanti to make her stage debut in Encores! Summer Stars production

Singer/songwriter, actor and author Ashanti will make her stage debut as 'Dorothy' in the New York City Center Encores! Summer Stars production of The Wiz.

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, running 12 Jun - 5 Jul 2009 at New York City Center. Opening night is planned for 18 Jun 2009.

Ashanti 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.'

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 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.

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

Thomas Kail was nominated for 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 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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