MUSICAL THEATER:
THE WIZ

African Americans and Musical Theater

Before African Americans were allowed on broadway they were portrayed by white performers through coons songs and blackface. Will Marion Cook and Bob Cole brought black written musicals to the stage. The Origin of the Cake Walk was written by Cook and was the first all black show to grace the a prestigious broadway stage. Bob Cole believed that blacks should compete with the white broadway performers to show them that African Americans could perform similarly. However, Cook believed African Americans should create their own unique style instead of copying the  whites. 

What was The Wiz about?

The Wiz was an all black production that opened on Broadway in 1975. It was about a young black girl, Dorothy, who wants so badly to visit a land far from her own. A tornado hits and sucks her into the land of Oz. To find her way back home Dorothy must follow the yellow brick road and never take off the silver slippers gifted to her by Addaperle. Dorothy eventually finds her way home with the help of a scarecrow, a tin man, and a lion.  

The Wiz was a remake of the 1900 book “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” and It featured and all-black cast. Upon its original release the film was actual a failure. Despite its failure it still became a classic to black audiences. The cast of the film consisted of some of the more prominent singers of the time like Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. 

Popular Cast Members

Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Richard Pryor, Nipsey Russell, and Lena Horne.