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The Wiz Reviews

This disappointing adaptation of "The Wiz" has none of the sparkle that made the all-black musical revamping of THE WIZARD OF OZ such a success on Broadway. Diana Ross is Dorothy, a Harlem schoolteacher, at her aunt's home for Thanksgiving. She walks out into a snowstorm and is magically whisked away to the Emerald City (Manhattan). The story follows the same lines as the original, with Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell, and Ted Ross playing Dorothy's comrades, the Scarecrow, Tinman, and Lion. Eventually, of course, the whole contingent finds the Wiz (Richard Pryor). Despite its marvelous personnel and terrific premise, THE WIZ is a bungled mess. Sidney Lumet's overblown direction strips the story of its magic, Ross is too old for the part and never quite captures Dorothy's innocence, and Pryor is wasted in a film ill-suited to his talents. Jackson, however, does provide some enjoyable moments as the Scarecrow, while Mabel King gives a wonderful portrayal of the evil witch, and the whole mess might be worth sitting through just to hear Lena Horne as Glinda the Good. The many musical numbers (by Quincy Jones, Ashford & Simpson, Charlie Smalls, and Luther Vandross) are overproduced, employing 206 studio musicians, a 36-voice children's choir, and a 73-voice adult choir. Songs and musical numbers include "The Feeling That We Have" (Charles Smalls, sung by Theresa Merritt), "Can I Go On Not Knowing?" (Quincy Jones, Nick Ashford, Valerie Simpson, sung by D. Ross), "Glinda's Theme" (Jones, sung by chorus), "He's the Wizard" (Smalls, sung by Thelma Carpenter), "Soon as I Get Home" (Smalls, sung by D. Ross), "You Can't Win" (Smalls, sung by Jackson), "Ease on Down the Road" (Smalls, sung by D. Ross, Jackson, Russell, T. Ross), "What Would I Do If I Could Feel?" "Slide Some Oil to Me" (Smalls, sung by Russell), "I'm a Mean Old Lion" (Smalls, sung by T. Ross), "Poppy Girls" (Jones, Anthony Jackson), "Be a Lion" (Smalls, sung by D. Ross, Jackson, Russell, T. Ross), "Emerald City Ballet" (Jones, Smalls, sung by chorus), "Is This What Feeling Gets?" (Jones, Ashford, Simpson, sung by D. Ross), "Don't Nobody Bring Me No Bad News" (Smalls, sung by King), "Everybody Rejoice" (Luther Vandross, sung by cast), "Believe in Yourself" (Smalls, sung by Lena Horne, D. Ross), "Brand New Day," "So You Wanted to See the Wizard," "He's the Wizard" (Smalls), "Liberation Agitato," "The Wiz," "March of the Munchkins," "Now Watch Me Dance," "End of the Yellow Brick Road," "A Sorry Phoney" (Jones). The film was nominated for four Academy Awards: Best Song Score, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design.