‘The Wiz’ starts film series

Feb 07, 2014
The 1978 film “The Wiz” stars, from left, Ted Ross, Diana Ross, Nipsy Russell and Michael Jackson. It marked the beginning of the end of the blaxploitation era.

Rockland — In conjunction with its “Wonderful World of Oz exhibition,” the Farnsworth Art Museum will present a screening of “The Wiz” Saturday, Feb. 15, at 1 p.m. in the museum auditorium. The film is free with museum admission.

“The Wiz” is a 1978 musical adventure film produced by Motown Productions and Universal Pictures, released by Universal. An urbanized retelling of L. Frank Baum's “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” featuring an entirely African-American cast, “The Wiz” was adapted from the 1975 Broadway musical of the same name. The film follows the adventures of Dorothy, a shy Harlem schoolteacher who finds herself magically transported to the Land of Oz, which resembles a fantasy version of New York City. Befriended by a Scarecrow, a Tin Man and a Cowardly Lion, she travels through the land to seek an audience with the mysterious Wiz, who they say has the power to take her home.

Produced by Rob Cohen and directed by Sidney Lumet, “The Wiz” stars Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell, Ted Ross, Mabel King, Theresa Merritt, Thelma Carpenter, Lena Horne and Richard Pryor. The film's story was reworked from William F. Brown's Broadway libretto by Joel Schumacher, and Quincy Jones supervised the adaptation of Charlie Smalls and Luther Vandross's songs for film. A handful of new songs, written by Jones and the songwriting team of Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, were added for the film version. Upon its original theatrical release, The Wiz was a critical and commercial failure but received Academy Award nominations for Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Original Music Score and Best Cinematography.

Baum’s 1900 novel has been adapted into several different works, the most famous being the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz” starring Judy Garland. Over several Saturday afternoons this winter, the Farnsworth will be screening the more infamous and perhaps less critically well-received adaptations — none are recommended for young children.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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