The Wiz is a musical that retells the original Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. The book, by William F. Brown and the music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls strives to tell the story in the context of the African American culture.
The musical originally opened in October, 1974 in Baltimore and moved to New York for a January 5, 1975 Broadway opening. The Broadway production won seven Tony Awards, including the award for the Best Musical. It is a show that received mainstream acceptance for an all-black cast. The musical has played all over the world and was adapted for film in 1978. Although the film had many top stars in the cast, it was considered a disappointment.
Most people feel that the success of The Wiz was on the shoulders of Charlie Smalls who wrote both the music and lyrics.
Charlie Smalls began giving piano concerts at age 5. He received a scholarship from the Henry Street Settlement and entered Julliard when he was 11. He graduated from Julliard in 1961. Smalls attended the High School of Performing Arts.
He was a pianist with the New York Jazz Repertory Company and toured with Hugh Masekela, Harry Belafonte, Esther Morrow, and others.
He entered the Air Force and played with the Air Force Band, where his greatest accomplishment was writing a Christmas carol for John F. Kennedy’s daughter, Caroline.
He began working on The Wiz in 1970 and gained national attention.
Smalls had been writing the score for Miracles, based on the H.G. Wells novel The Man Who Could Work Miracles. He recorded several songs with Geoffrey Holder and the Harlem Boys Choir.
Smalls died on August 27, 1987 during surgery for a burst appendix in a Belgium hospital. He was 43.
Stephanie Mills performed the song in the Broadway production. Motown Productions bought the rights to the stage show and expected Stephanie Mills to play the part of Dorothy. However, Diana Ross wanted the role. Although almost everyone considered her too old for the role, she was cast because she said she would be able to guarantee that Michael Jackson would play the Scarecrow if she were cast.
Home is one of most popular songs from The Wiz. Originally written for the character of Dorothy, the song has been sung by many well-known artists, including Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, and Kristen Chenoweth.
By far the most beautiful and passionate performance is by Clay Aiken. Clay first performed the beautiful song in Raleigh, North Carolina on June 21, 2010 for a show titled Bringing Broadway Home. The one-night-only event celebrated 27 seasons of Broadway at North Carolina Theatre.
Clay performed Home again on Broadway as part of the cast of Broadway Backwards, a charity program for BC/EFA on February 7, 2011.
The talented SueReu put together a fabulous video that combines the beauty of Clay’s performance of Home with wonderful looks into Clay’s love of his home and family. It is perhaps the best video I have seen that combines Clay’s beautiful musicianship and the beauty of who he is. Thank you, Sue. Do you have stock in Kleenex?