At the time of its production, The Wiz was the most expensive movie musical ever made, a genre not known for being cheap to produce. Still: how much would you pay to get Diana Ross, Nipsey Russell, Michael Jackson and more at the peak of their artistic powers?
Directed by Sidney Lumet (12 Angry Men, Network) and written by Joel Schumacher (nothing from its Broadway play source material made it into the movie), The Wiz is a retelling of The Wizard of Oz, swapping poverty-stricken Dust-Bowl-era Kansas for poverty-stricken, run-down New York City. The Wicked Witch of the West is transmogrified into a sweatshop owner; the Good Witch of the North into Miss One, a magical numbers runner; and Oz the great and powerful into The Wiz, a … well, you’ll see.
Filled to the brim with outré fashion and Quincy-Jones-produced music, and getting branded “blaxploitation” as audiences for that genre were beginning to dwindle, The Wiz was not a success on its initial release. But it too has transmogrified: claimed as a beloved classic, it earned its place on the VHS shelves of homes across the nation. As friend of the Theatre and Tampa Bay area film critic Steve Persall wrote in the St. Pete Times, “Of course, it only took one flop like The Wiz (1978) to give Hollywood an excuse to retreat to safer (i.e., whiter) creative ground until John Singleton and Spike Lee came along. Yet, without blaxploitation there might not have been another generation of black filmmakers, no Denzel Washington or Angela Bassett, or they might have taken longer to emerge."
Guests are invited to donate a copy of their favorite storybook to benefit young readers in our community, and dress as their favorite storybook characters to participate in fun photo ops and a pre-film costume parade!
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