Forgotten Classic: The Wiz

The Wizard of Oz story has been told and retold countless times, but let's face it - it's still awesome. So in 1978, director Sidney Lumet decided to take a stab at Frank L. Baum's classic novel, but this was going to different. Instead of being a straight adaptation of the novel it was going to be an adaptation of the broadway musical, The Wiz. This was where the original story is twisted to relate to African-American culture, with an all black cast.

The Wiz follows young school teacher, Dorothy (Diana Ross) caught in a snow storm in the middle of New York City, she then awakes in the derelict urban metropolis (similar to NewYork), Oz. There she meets the Scarecrow (Michael Jackson), Tin Man (Nipsey Russell) and Lion (Ted Ross), who help Dorothy find the great and powerful Wiz (Richard Pryor) who can hopefully send her home.

There's a limit as to how much you can diverge from the original story, but The Wiz achieves the perfect balance. With some great new songs and twists on well known characters, the film still stays true to the main elements of the original film/book. The retro value of the movie stands out and it's a great piece of seventies nostalgia with some iconic performances.

Diana Ross is incredibly sweet as Dorothy and fits into the adapted role perfectly. I was originally unconvinced by the casting of Michael Jackson but when he appears as the Scarecrow, he's  incredibly likeable and you can tell he's loving playing the part. Ted Ross is the campest lion I've ever seen and Nipsey Russell is good fun as the Tin Man.

Songs like You Can't Win, Slide Some Oil to Me, Ease on Down The Road, The Feeling That We Had and Believe on Yourself are all wonderful. Despite dragging a bit towards the end, The Wiz is definitely a forgotten classic of the seventies and an all round fantastic musical.
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