The Wiz: No Where Are They Now
We showed the kids The Wiz recently and in re-watching the movie, I was reminded how amazing the cast was especially later in their careers. Sadly the movie was a flop at the box-office but it went onto become a cult hit. Personally I have always loved the move because of the bright and amazing actors who took on such unique characters. From the great comedian Nipsy Russell (The Tin Man) to Mabel King best known as Mama from What’s Happening!. An interesting fact is that almost more than half of the cast of The Wiz guest appeared on The Love Boat.
In looking into the cast, I realized that all the cast, besides Diana Ross is now dead. I missed all the news articles that were published after Lena Horne’s death in 2010. Now of course a good portion of the supporting cast is still alive. In my opinion, the ensemble numbers in the Emerald City and Munchkin Land are what turned the movie into a cult classic. The Emerald City number staged at Lincoln Center in NYC and the costumes and choreography alone is simply 70s. It’s crazy to think that over 2600 costumes were used in that scene alone. A perfect exhibit of 70’s fashion.
In the early 70’s, independent films were on the rise and with came the birth of Blaxploitation film movements. Sadly when The Wiz hit theaters it became a mark of the end of the black-focused films. Thankfully the movement saw a rebirth the resurgence on independent film in the 90’s. Also interesting is the man who gave us the The Wiz screenplay also brought us other cult classics like Car Wash & The Incredible Shrinking Woman. The 80’s were good to Joel Schumacher with a string of hits (St. Elmo’s Fire, The Lost Boys, Flatliner's, Dying Young) but sadly the 90’s weren’t to kind to Schumacher with the his two Batman franchise films (Batman Forever, Batman & Robin).
Many film historians agree that the demise of The Wiz at the box-office began well before production. Motown was initially helming the project with founder Barry Gordy as the director/producer. Gordy was against the casting of Ross as Dorothy. Ross went to the other producers and produced a scheme that allowed her to change the director and cast. I agree that actress Stephanie Mills, who was in the original broadway production and the 1984 broadway revival, should have been casted in the movie. While Ross is a good actress, the whole young and innocent vibe the character exudes was heavily absent. Also, Ted Ross (The Lion) and Mabel King (Evillene) were the only major cast member to reprise their roles from Broadway to the big screen.