The Wiz – August 1978

Written on the inside cover: Opening Nite [sic]: August 1, 1978

I HATED The Wiz. Absolutely hated it.

I still don’t know why. I was nine when I saw it and there was nothing to not like. It was colorful, it was loud, the music was (mostly) happy. For the life of me I can’t remember why I hated it – but I did.

I only remember that I hated it because for over 30 years people would ask me what the first musical was that I saw in person and I’d reply “The Wiz…and I hated it.”

Never did I buy the cast recording and even before I saw my first musical I owned (well, courtesy of what my parents owned) a lot of cast recordings. I refused to watch the movie until I was well into my twenties and I wasn’t fond of that either.

People thought it ironic that I came to adore musicals so given I hated the first one I saw. I suppose it was – but I grew up watching movie musicals so the seed was planted early on. (Thanks to The Music Man and Cabaret, I both wanted to marry Robert Preston and BE Liza Minnelli before I ever saw The Wiz. And how many six year olds do you know who would sit in their room singing The Rain in Spain? That was me when I wasn’t singing Christmas songs.)

So I sadly remember very little about this production. By all accounts that I’ve researched, the cast was wonderful and included, as the Lion, Ken Prymus (best known as the guy who sings Suicide is Painless in the fake suicide scene in the film M*A*S*H).

An interesting note about the Playbill I purchased. The person who originally had it must have been quite fond of Charles Valentino who played the Scarecrow because his name is underlined and highlighted with stars throughout the Playbill. This is something I would have totally done so I have a crush on whoever owned this Playbill originally.

It wasn’t until 2015 when NBC presented The Wiz Live! that I truly realized what I had been missing. It still stands as my favorite live musical that’s been aired since they began performing live shows on television again in the 2010s. The 2015 production was so fully of energy and talent that I’ve watched it multiple times since. I cry through most of it but for me that’s a sign that I really love it.

My experience with The Wiz has given me a new appreciation for theater. I now go out of my way to see shows that might not immediately appeal to me. It’s been hit or miss (mostly hit, though) but it’s definitely enhanced my theater-going experience.

How else would you learn that Eartha Kitt relaxed by going to discos and drinking white wine mixed with Perrier if not from your Playbill?



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