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The Wiz Essay, Research Paper

In this very updated version of the well beloved children s classic The Wizard of Oz, movie watchers are transported to a world of music, neat special effects, eye-popping costumes, and a fantastic retelling of the tale of the wonderful wizard of Oz. The Wiz is one of the best African American musicals ever made because it has a great cast of actors and actresses, it has hidden symbolism that relates to African American life, and the choice of music adds power to its message. This musical depicts the struggle of black life through song and rhythm, two aspects of African American culture. It is a remake of The Wizard of Oz with the same story, same characters, and an added twist of soul.

The cast of The Wiz is composed of many talented people. Legendary soul mega star Diana Ross plays the 34-year old kindergarten teacher better known as Dorothy. Diana Ross is known for her many songs as well as her career as the lead singer of the trio The Supremes. The King of Pop, Michael Jackson plays the part of the brain needy Scarecrow. His dancing skills and smooth voice bring this character to life. Lena Horne, jazz songstress extraordinare, plays Glinda the Good. Horne is one of the greatest jazz singers of this era. Nipsey Russell, one of the 70s blaxploitation actors, plays the part of the Tinman. Comedian Richard Pryor plays the Wiz. His comical actions give life to this character. Quincy Jones, one of the well-known songwriters of his time, co-wrote the movie s soundtrack, along with Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson, husband and wife soul duo. This collaboration of acting and musical talent makes The Wiz a magical experience of story and song.

African American culture is defined within the underlying themes of this musical. For example, the name of the Lion is Fleetwood Coupe de Ville, which is the name of a well-known Cadillac. In the 70s, Cadillacs were the kings of the road, much like lions are the kings of the jungle. Next, in this story is a lady by the name of Miss One, who sells numbers to the citizens of Oz. During this time period, Blacks were searching for an escape from dreary living. Many depended on the lottery for an outlet. A third form of symbolism is the scene where Dorothy and her friends get to Oz and all the citizens are promenading in green attire. The Wiz then announces that the color must be changed to gold, then red, and finally blue. These color changes resemble the many fashion trends set and lost during the 70s. African Americans needed a sense of belonging and therefore went along with the changes to be in the in-crowd. The many forms of symbolism found throughout this musical define the inner city African American culture of the late 1970s.

The Wiz sends its message not only through symbolism, but also through music. The four main characters perform the most popular song in the movie, Ease on Down the Road, They sing this as they are following the Yellow Brick Road. Its underlying message is go for your dreams, no matter what they are, but it takes time to achieve them. A new message is sent through the song Believe in Yourself , which is performed by Glinda the Good. This song is about self-confidence and the strength to move on in life. The final song sums up the whole movie. Dorothy sings Home , where one can be their self and not worry about other people s thoughts or views about them. Home is a comfort zone for everyone, there s no place like home. Many of the movie s themes are summarized through song and therefore create the overall tone of the original story.

The Wiz is a successful remake of a brilliant tale. The characters, the music, the dancing, and the emotion all add to the underlying message of the movie. I think this movie is a must see for all ages and cultures. It is a powerful movie that portrays African American life, both good and bad aspects, in a soulful, magical way. This musical is one of the best I ve ever seen and I recommend it to anyone who appreciates good music, culture, and just plain inspiration!

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