Say What Now? An All White Cast Of “The Wiz” Causes An Uproar In New York

20 Comments
March 3, 2013 ‐ By Drenna Armstrong

"TheWiz1"

Well, isn’t this interesting.

According to an EURweb report, a high school in Syracuse, NY will be performing their version of The Wiz but the problem is all the lead characters are…white.

Parents spoke to the NBC and CBS affiliates in upstate New York and they are outraged that the musical will not be more diverse, mixing all races that embody the school.

One parent, Letice Titus, whose daughter was cast in an ensemble role rather than a lead, says that the school should recast the play or acknowledge the elephant in the room:

“They have black talented kids at the school, but they chose to put them at the ensemble because they’re not theater kids. They should have made a collaborative effort based on diversity, cultural awareness, [and] sensitivity. How are the black kids going to feel when they see a play?”

As just about everyone knows, The Wiz, which starred Michael Jackson and Diana Ross in the movie and Stephanie Mills in the actual Broadway musical, was created as a more “soulful” version of the original The Wizard of Oz.  Many have argued that it is the “better” version.

North Central Syracuse superintendent Kim Dyce Faucette says that while she can relate as an African-American woman, she is not willing to pull the card on the play just yet. Instead, she is going to do some further investigation and then she will make a more informed decision.

Hopefully, the school will come to their senses before the superintendent makes up her mind and diversifies the lead characters.

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  • black magic

    It’s no different that The Harlem Shake getting a lot of attention when white college students make fun of it and it went viral while totally ignoring the artistic value of the culture hat originated the Shake. An all-white cast ignores the creativity of those who originated The Wiz and what The Wiz represents…Black music and dance from the Black cultural experience.

    • chanela

      please shut up. for the last time, the harlem shake videos were because “harlem shake” was the name of the SONG they used, not the dance. it had nothing to do with the harlem shake dance! smh

  • Candacey Doris

    In my experience the theater teacher will pick from her crew before picking from the kids not in theater no matter how talented. Same for the music teacher etc. It”s not racism. It’s just really annoying favoritism. And she likely coached them on how to audition in class too. That’s what you do for kids that are constantly in your class. If only white kids were in theater and were coached on how to audition then no wonder they got all the roles.

  • Yay!

    I think people are missing the point. It’s a diverse school, its The Wiz, a number of minority children tried out and none made significant roles. Isn’t that strange? I think people are forgetting the point of all black productions in its heyday. At one time (and sometimes still) blacks were deliberately missing from major T.V and movie productions. Black productions, which rarely had mass exposure, was the only way many black people could see themselves as part of pop culture, even though many white artists “borrowed” from black arts. I would be curious to see an all-white version of Wiz, actually. Would they focus on music or the overall style of the Broadway production and movie? I think the real controversy would be if the production tried to emulate a black cast.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PC3VICMILDFDI2RKWVJQ5ACD24 jason

    My thing with this story was why not just all it the wizard of oz? Even if the all white cast was very talented why not just call it the wizard of oz with their own flair? In 2013 what do we call an all white cast thats a copy of the original show FAME?…..Glee…. For those of you saying its all good….what about an all white cast remaking “the color purple”?

  • Annette

    This is stupid. If the tables were turned and it was an all black cast for a typically white play no one would have a problem. These kids are in high school. What is the lesson here? Are we trying to teach kids to have a chip on their shoulders and cry racism for even the smallest things?

    On order to be taken seriously when there’s a real race problem we need to pick our battles.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/YSUNRFSNFK2DNQXGGCCTTV3NC4 Lucy

    Now that white folks have used turn about to be fair play, we want to
    yell foul? Let’s make up our minds because we are looking pretty petty
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  • Janae

    Choose your battles.

  • voiceofreason

    Why is this a problem?

    • voiceofreason

      I just found this site today and I have been having fun with it. I like the “Where Are They Now” segment. If you are going to talk about “The Wiz”, then at least refer to the original play and not the horrid vanity movie for Diana Ross! I was priviledged to see Stephanie Mills in the original version when it was brought to L.A. It should be celebrated that the school wanted to do this play in the first place! SMH!

  • Trisha_B

    So are they any black kids who actually auditioned for this play? Just b/c they’re talented doesnt mean they should be automatically chosen to be in the play, they probably couldn’t act. I went to a diverse high school, but there were very few black kids that did theater b/c it was seen as “uncool”, but no doubt we had some talented black kids. Smh people always pulling the race card, & like @4aebd42dfdf65a2d7f1e7f85128cfe31:disqus said, everybody was so hype they redid an all white movie w/ a black cast, but they cant do the same smh. Get over it

  • IllyPhilly

    I taught drama in school and we put on Romeo and Juliet and the only drama students I had were ladies so if your only drama students or a majority with talent are White, that’s what happens.

  • That’s My Story

    Now, when black folks did the remake of Steel Magnolias, we (black folks) were excited. We couldn’t wait to see how it would turn out. Now that white folks have used turn about to be fair play, we want to yell foul? Let’s make up our minds because we are looking pretty petty these days.

    • Glamazon

      I agree! Especially since the Wiz is really the black version of the original “Wizard of Oz”. It seems people are just mad that their kids didn’t get lead roles. No one has even said whether or not the white leads weren’t better suited for the role. Maybe they got those roles fair and square. Is their now affirmative action in school plays now too? Come on people… and yes, I am black.

    • rita

      Agreed. If the students who got the lead roles are white because white kids happen to do drama more at that particular school and they performed better at the audition, why not let the white kids play the parts they earned. If we are only going to let people of the same race as those who created the roles play, it will end up hurting blacks. Colorblind casting works both ways, and it usually benefits us (just because so many plays/musicals started out white), so I’d say people should shut up about this. Besides, I love the Wiz, and more people should see/perform it. The songs are great!

    • AJ

      Bc it’s high school I can see how the whole cast may have ended up being white. You have a limited amount of people to choose from and honestly the perfect people for some characters aren’t the characters race or gender. At my old hs we had a majority of African Americans and Hispanics so every show was cast with those people. Regardless of what race the character was in the play. Now, if this were something that were being created for Broadway or the big screen, I would have a problem. The Wiz was intentionally made with a Black audience in mind. To give us something that better related to us. So, to take the Wizard of Oz, flip it to “Black”, just to flip what we did into what was already done (The Wiz back into the Wizard of Oz)…sounds crazy.
      I was actually really hesitant about the Steel Magnolias movie too. I LOVED the cast, but felt that the original had a great cast that did a phenomenal job. The original was good and that’s that. No need to remake it. Esp when the remake wasn’t as good as the first (in my opinion). That’s how I see it as someone who loves film though. As a black woman I enjoy seeing my race being embraced as well as portrayed well. As a lover of the arts, I ultimately just want to see good art.

    • FromUR2UB

      The uproar is not over the fact that the school is performing the play, but that they act like they couldn’t find one non-white kid qualified to play any of the lead roles. If it were an all-white school, that would be expected. But when a multi-racial school is represented only by a white cast, someone should question it. Do you think Jewish people would remain silent if the cast of a remake of “Fiddler on the Roof” included no Jewish children, if there were some in the school?

      • Um

        From the quote from the parent…

        “They have black talented kids at the school, but they chose to put them at the ensemble because ***they’re not theater kids***…”

        So the school should have told the kids ***that are actually in theater*** that they can’t have the lead roles in the ***theater production*** because non-theater kids need to get the roles?

    • autumnbreeze

      I thought the same thing

    • Nikki

      I was just about to say the same thing. They shouldn’t have remade Steel Magnolias anyway, but we aren’t talking about that lol