Hattiloo Theatre celebrates The Wiz; brings new adaptation to Memphis

Published: Dec. 3, 2015 at 7:04 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 3, 2015 at 7:37 PM CST
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(Source: Hattiloo Theatre)
(Source: Hattiloo Theatre)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Michael Jackson and Diana Ross gave a classic Broadway musical a whole new audience when "The Wiz" hit movie screens in 1978.

Now, an all-star cast including Queen Latifah, David Alan Greer, Mary J. Blige, and Ne-Yo are giving "The Wizard of Oz" yet another urbanized twist.

In Thursday's all new NBC version, the cast hopes to broaden the appeal of a timeless story. Then in June 2016, a reimagining of The Wiz is again coming to Hattiloo Theatre.

The theater's CEO and Founder Ekundayo Bandele talked to WMC Action News 5 about his much anticipated adaptation.

"This one, I'm a little nervous, because I'm the producer," Bandele said. "The beautiful thing is that everybody knows the story of the Wizard of Oz, and they think that they know the story when they see The Wiz, but The Wiz is different because it's an urban tale."

Since Hattiloo opened its doors in Overton Square in August 2014, Bandele said at least 32 percent of the audience is from outside the Tri-State area. 

"Not only are we a local theater, but we are are regional theater and the city of course has been supporting us since the time that we were on Marshall Avenue," Bandele said. "Now since we've been in Overton Square, our diversity and our audience and our actors, everything has just exploded."

Bandele believes nearly 40 years later, The Wiz continues to cultivate diversity.

"People of color get to see themselves on stage, and that's the beautiful thing about The Wiz being here at Hattiloo Theatre," he said. 

Performances, dates, and information about auditions for Hattiloo's play can be found here.

The Wiz airs live on WMC Action News 5 at 7 o'clock Thursday night.

Copyright 2015 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.