It’s that time again. On Thursday, December 3, NBC will be presenting The Wiz Live (8 PM Eastern). The Wiz is a product of that period in the 1970s when Broadway was producing “all-black” versions of everything. It is an urban, African-American version of The Wizard of Oz. The show gave us the popular song “Ease On Down the Road”.
In a nice casting touch, Stephanie Mills, who originated the role of Dorothy in the 1975 Broadway cast, will be playing Auntie Em. The production will also feature Queen Latifah as the first female Wiz.
By now, the plot should be familiar to most readers. When we first encounter Dorothy, she’s wishing to get out of Kansas and see distant places. Auntie Em is telling her that she has everything she needs right where she is. Then a tornado blows through and suddenly Dorothy and her dog Toto find themselves not in Kansas. The house lands on the Wicked Witch of the East, killing her and freeing the Munchkins from her power.
Addaperle, the Good Witch of the North, shows up. Dorothy just wants to get home, and Addaperle suggests that her best bet is to go see the Wizard. She gives Dorothy the Witch of the East’s shoes and tells her not to take them off because they carry a powerful magic.
As she sets off down the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City of Oz, she encounters a Scarecrow who is looking for a brain, a Tin Man who is looking for a heart, and a Cowardly Lion who is looking for courage. Eventually, they make their way to the gates of the Emerald City. They are admitted to see the Wiz because Dorothy is wearing the shoes of the Wicked Witch of the East. The Wizard agrees to give them the things they are looking for if they kill the Wicked Witch of the West (named Evilene in this version).
As they approach Evilene’s realm, she sends her Winged Monkeys to kill them. They destroy Scarecrow and Tin Man and they bring Dorothy and the Lion to the castle, where they and Toto are forced to do menial work and Evilene tortures Toto and the Lion in front of Dorothy. Finally, Dorothy throws water at the Wicked Witch and she melts. This frees the Winged Monkeys from the witch’s spell and they restore Scarecrow and Tin Man to their prior states.
They return to the Emerald City, where the Wizard reneges on the promise made. The screen that hides the Wiz is overturned and the Wizard is exposed. The Wiz confesses that he (in this production, she) is just a balloonist from Kansas who drifted to Oz by accident and they made him Wizard. The Scarecrow, The Tin Man, and the Lion are given symbols of what they are seeking.
The Wiz takes off for Kansas, but Dorothy misses the balloon. Addaperle appears, suggesting that Dorothy ask Glinda, The good Witch of the South, for help getting home. They are transported to Glinda’s palace. Glinda tells Dorothy that the shoes have always had the power to take her home, but that she had to believe it for it to work. “The magic is in you.” Dorothy bids farewell to her companions, clicks her heels three times, and returns home.
What do we learn from this? Well, for one thing, what you ask for, you get. Dorothy wants to see distant places, and she gets to see Oz. Then she wants to go home, and she winds up back at home in Kansas.
The Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion receive symbols that remind them that they had the things they were looking for all along, but didn’t recognize them. They had to be shown that they possessed these qualities. But during their adventure, Scarecrow demonstrates his brains, Tin Man demonstrates his heart, and the Lion demonstrates his courage. All you need and all you’re seeking is already there, waiting to be recognized.
And finally, there is the magic of the shoes. To activate the magic in you, you must believe. But as Dorothy learns, the magic is in you. Will you recognize it? What will you do with that magic? In Dorothy’s case, it takes her home – both physically and in the metaphysical sense of being where you belong, where Divine Order is playing out in your life. And Dorothy recognizes the blessing of home.
And there is no place like home. In every sense of the word.