The Wiz arrives in Boston

By PHOENIX STAFF  |  June 30, 2009

"The Wiz" opened on Broadway at the Majestic Theatre on January 5, 1975. Produced by Ken Harper, with music by Charlie Smalls, it went on to win seven Tony Awards including those for Best Musical, Best Score and Best Supporting Actor, the latter for Ted Ross who reprises his roles as the Lion in the film.

The following year, the stage musical also won the 1976 Grammy Award for Best Original Cast Show Album.

Originally entitled, "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," the book by L. Frank Baum, illustrated by W. W. Denslow, was first published in June, 1900, and has not since then ever been out of print. In 1939, it was estimated that the novel has been read by over 80 million people. It is one of the 15 top best-selling books of the Twentieth Century, with copies now in print in 22 languages.

The first dramatization of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" was an enormously successful stage play which opened in the fall of 1902, played for 18 months, and was one of the big hits of the Twentieth Century's first decade. The book and lyrics were written by Baum and music by Paul Tiejens and A. Baldwin Sloane.

The book's first screen adaptation was in 1910 in a one-reeler produced by William N. Selig. Baum formed the Oz Film Company in 1913, and during its two years in existence, produced three five-reel Oz features.

In 1925, a full-length silent film was made called "The Wizard of Oz." based on a screenplay by one of Baum's four sons, L. Frank Baum, Jr., in collaboration with the film's star and director, Larry Semon.

In 1934, producer Samuel Goldwyn bought most of the Oz stories from the Baum estate with the idea of making them into films starring Eddie Cantor. These rights were sold to MGM a few years later and became the basis for the 1939 musical starring Judy Garland.

And now, "The Wiz" – not only a truly spectacular culmination to the history of this beloved and treasured American story but also a production that is bound to become recognized as a signal accomplished in the history of American film.

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