Jumping Jivernacular

Time Magazine (January 20, 2024)

Purists and adulators of Judy Garland may carp, and one can understand why, but this all-black musical version of The Wizard of Oz is a carnival of fun. It grins from the soul, sizzles with vitality, and flaunts the gaudy hues of an exploding rainbow.

The Kansas of The Wiz is as close to middle America as Harlem's Lenox Avenue at 125th Street. The show, with all new music and lyrics, is saucy with black urban humor. Its talk is jumping jivernacular, its walk is a big-city strut, its dances have a blowtorch frenzy, and its songs range from a warm gospel glow to the rock beat of a riveter mining asphalt.

Yet neither sense of childlike innocence nor the wonder of revisiting a durable fable is lost. Stephanie Mills, wistful and staunch as Dorothy, sings like an angel on furlough. Her companions, the Scarecrow (Hinton Battle), the Cowardly Lion (Ted Ross) and the Tin Woodman (Tiger Haynes) are equally winning and bring complete conviction to their roles.

Costuming witches good and bad, peckish crows, a field "mice squad" and the dwarfish Munchkins, Geoffrey Holder displays breathtaking flamboyance of design and color. This wickedly amusing show is a sight for glad eyes, and parents who take young children along should be forewarned that they may have trouble ungluing them from their seats when the final curtain falls.

Copyright © 2008. Jeremy Aufderheide. All Rights Reserved. E-mail