A reincarnation of the Tony award-winning production that took America by storm in 1975, The Wiz will be at Hope Mill Theatre from November 24 to January 16. The show is a wondrous retelling of L. Frank Baum’s beloved children’s novel. It originally bewitched audiences with its reflection of African-American experience explored through the narrative of Dorothy’s adventures in Oz. Now, many heel clicks, strolls along the yellow brick road and devious flying monkeys later, the show is coming to Manchester for the first new UK production in 10 years.
This revival of The Wiz will once again hold a mirror up to contemporary society, though this time in the context of Black British culture. Director Matthew Xia shed light on their new approach, stating “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 show’s all-black cast features a carousel of theatrical talents including Cherelle Wiliams (The Lion King) as Dorothy, Tarik Frimpong (Aladdin) as Scarecrow, Jonathan Andre (The Lion King) as Lion and Llewellyn Graham making his professional debut as Tin Man. Of course it wouldn’t be a musical without heartfelt songs, powerful music and some expressive dances: Charlie Smalls is in charge of music and lyrics for the production, while Leah Hill takes care of the choreography.
You’ll no doubt be transfixed as the actors put their heart and soul into numbers such as ‘Be A Lion’, ‘Brand New Day’ and ‘Home’, while dancers bring the story to life with mesmerising moves and electrifying energy. An eight-piece band is also at hand to inject an extra dose of soul into the show, rounding out the spectacle with arrangements from Sean Green. The production features a tapestry of the many forms of Black music, such as reggae, Afro-beat, drum & bass, house, R&B, funk, afro-Brazilian, hip-hop, and gospel. Clearly, it won’t just be the tornado sweeping you off your feet at this brilliant production.
This is all taking place at the Hope Mill Theatre, with big shoes to fill after its sold-out, critically acclaimed production of Rent. We’re sure The Whiz is more than up to the task, and has already opened to a wealth of positive reviews. On top of that, the theatre also lends its own charm to the experience. A historic building that dates all the way back to 1824, it started life as a steam-driven cotton mill – one of many contributing to Manchester’s textile-producing golden days – and has now been transformed into an intimate venue where the spotlight and focus will be firmly on the stage.
Speaking of the stage, Simisola Majekodunmi has drenched it in rich, colourful lighting – from the iconic emerald to bold crimsons that strike a mix of excitement and fear into your heart – while vibrant set designs from the mind of Simon Kenney make for an immersive backdrop as the story plays out. If you fancy sinking into your seats and watching this riveting reimagining you can find tickets here.