Broadway Creative Team
The Wiz originally opened on Broadway at the Majestic Theatre on January 5, 1975 after only 15 previews. It shortly thereafter moved down the street to the slightly smaller Broadway Theatre. The show finally closed on January 28, 1979 after a total of 1,672 performances. The Wiz also had a brief revival at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, opening on May 24, 1984.
BROADWAY CREATIVE TEAM
KEN HARPER (PRODUCER)
Ken Harper (1939-1988) was the producer who conceived and brought The Wiz to Broadway. He was an adopted child raised in Bronx, New York. He graduated high school and entered Columbia University but later dropped out to join the army. In Korea he began his career as a disc jockey, playing music for Armed Forces radio. After his discharge in the 1960s he was hired by radio station WPIX in New York, where he worked as Music and Public Affairs Director. The concept for an all-black musical came to Harper in 1971. He originally planned to make the production into a TV special. When that fell through, he initiated the campaign to seek funding for a Broadway musical, convincing 20th Century Fox to provide $650,000 in backing in exchange for the movie, record and publishing rights. He later re-acquired the motion picture rights for The Wiz and sold them to Universal Pictures, which produced the 1978 movie version starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson.
CHARLIE SMALLS (MUSIC AND LYRICS)
Charlie Smalls (1943-1987) was a composer and songwriter best known for writing the lyrics and music for the Broadway musical The Wiz (1974). Born in Queens, New York, he studied music from the age of three. During the 1960s, Smalls was the pianist in the New York Jazz Repertory Company, and he toured with such artists as Harry Belafonte and Hugh Masekela. In 1974, the show’s producer, Ken Harper, recruited him to work on The Wiz. While in Belgium in September 1987, Charlie Smalls died of cardiac arrest during emergency surgery for a ruptured appendix. He was 43 years old.
WILLIAM F. BROWN (BOOK)
William F. Brown (1928-) won a Tony nomination and a Drama Desk Award for writing the book of The Wiz. Other Broadway credits include The Girl In The Freudian Slip (author); New Faces Of 1968 (head writer); and A Broadway Musical (book). Off-Broadway and in regional theatre, Bill wrote the books for other critically acclaimed musicals including How To Steal An Election, Damon’s Song, Twist and The Nutley Papers. His 100-plus TV credits include Jackie Gleason’s “American Scene Magazine,” “That Was the Week That Was,” “As the World Turns,” “Love American Style,” and many others. Joan Rivers was indebted to him for special material, as was Joel Grey, for whom Brown created one of his four produced TV pilots. He has written book and lyrics for about 100 industrial shows, films, and videos for companies such as Ford Motor Company, Dupont, State Farm and Pepsi Cola.
GEOFFREY HOLDER (DIRECTOR, COSTUMES)
Dancer, choreographer and actor Geoffrey Holder (1930-2014) was born in Trinidad, and was an accomplished dancer and painter before moving to the US in 1954 to make his Broadway debut in the musical House of Flowers. From 1955 through 1956 was a principal dancer with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, and in 1957 he was a member of an all-black cast of Waiting for Godot on Broadway. His most famous film roles were as the heavy "Baron Samedi" in the James Bond movie Live and Let Die (1973) and Punjab in Annie (1982). As a choreographer he has created dance pieces for many companies, including the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. In the 1970s and 1980s, he put his striking 6'6" presence and bass voice to good use hawking various products in TV commercials and in 2005 voiced the narrator for the film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.