The Wiz

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

As The Wiz fast approaches it’s 50th anniversary, Hope Mill Theatre together with Ameena Hamid Productions and Chuchu Nwagu Productions have reimagined this multi award-winning musical, based on the much loved classic, The Wizard of Oz.

As Dorothy struggles with her identity a storm whips up, whisking her away to the magical land of Oz where she embarks on an unforgettable journey of self discovery, realising its not magic but self-belief that will bring her home.

Cherelle Williams takes on the role of Dorothy, slipping into silver sparkly trainers as she eases on down the yellow brick road. Her characterisation is superb while her voice is simply stunning, her rendition of Home is absolute perfection.

Tarik Frimpong is exceptional as the Scarecrow, using his whole body to tell the story he perfectly embodies the role while his skill in delivering Leah Hill’s impressive choreography is jaw-dropping.

Llewellyn Graham makes an incredible professional debut as the seriously soulful Tinman, he is an absolute joy and brings such fun to the role.

Jonathan Andre completes the quartet as the cowardly Lion & has the audience in the palm of his hand from the moment he arrives on stage. His playfulness and fun shining throughout.

Special mention must also go to Cameron Bernard Jones who is super sassy as The Wiz plus Ashh Blackwood, Anelisa Lamola and Bree Smith who all bring buckets of personality to the witches of Oz.

The Wiz is a true ensemble show, each and every member of the cast give their all. They exude joy and it’s infectious, I smiled all the way through this pacy show & would happily have stayed in my seat to watch it immediately again. Kudos to casting director Ryan Carter who has put together this outstanding cast.

Simon Kenny’s set & costume design are bright & bold, setting the tone of this vibrant piece from the start while Sean Green’s orchestrations are magnificent.

The original Broadway musical was written at a time when the civil rights of black people were still being hard fought and today almost 50 years later the importance of the Black Lives Matter campaign could never be underestimated. The Wiz celebrates loudly and proudly Black voices while choreographer Leah Hill gifts us with a rich feast of genres from across the African Diaspora.

Director Matthew Xia has created something truly magical with this talented cast. It’s joyful, soulful and bursting with pure heart, a must see!

The Wiz is on at Hope Mill Theatre until Sunday 16th January tickets available here.

The Wiz – Full casting revealed

Hope Mill Theatre, Ameena Hamid Productions & Chuchu Nwagu Productions today announces the cast for a radical new version of the award-winning Broadway musical The Wiz, which will be this year’s festive offering.

Directed by Matthew Xia (‘Into the Woods’, Royal Exchange), The Wiz is a joyous retelling of L. Frank Baum’s classic children’s novel ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ reflecting contemporary African-American culture. Its 1975 Broadway premiere production won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

Matthew Xia said: “The Wiz is approaching its 50th anniversary, it now exists within the canon of mainstream musicals and it’s due time for some bold reinvention. Originally a funk and soul-based analogy for the African-American experience, in 2021 Manchester we’re offering a contemporary take
on the discovery of self-determination and Black joy with this celebration of Black culture across the
African diaspora.”

The cast is made up of Cherelle Wiliams is Dorothy; Tarik Frimpong, Scarecrow; Llewellyn Graham, Tin Man; Jonathan Andre, Lion; Cameron Bernard Jones, The Wiz; Anelisa Lamola, Addaperle; Bree Smith,
Aunt Em & Glinda; Kofi Dennis, Lord High; Ashh Blackwood, Evillene. Ensemble: Andile Mabhena,
Shayna McPherson, Dylan Gordon-Jones, Samantha Shuma, Marisha Morgan.

The show is produced by Hope Mill Theatre, Ameena Hamid Productions & Chuchu Nwagu Productions.
Creative team: Director Matthew Xia; Musical Supervisor and Orchestrations Sean Green; Musical
Director Ehsaan Shivarani; Choreographer Leah Hill; Design Simon Kenny; Associate Costume Design
Maybelle Laye; Lighting Design Simisola Majekodunmi; Sound Design Tony Gayle; Casting Director
Ryan Carter; Casting Mentor Anne Vosser.

Musical Supervisor Sean Green has created new orchestrations. “In thinking about how much the music is loved, I had the thought What if the music was a love letter to black music? I started hearing all sorts of music within the DNA of the score. This exploration has allowed me to incorporate various genres from across the African Diaspora in the new orchestrations which, alongside the funk and soul in the original, really adds depth and colour to the world that we’re creating with this production.”

The Wiz will run from Wednesday 24 November 2021 to Sunday 16 January 2022 tickets are available here.