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The Wiz [VHS] from Universal Pictures
Description of The Wiz [VHS] by Universal Pictures
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Directed by Sidney Lumet (Serpico) and penned by Joel Schumacher (Batman and Robin), this lavish 1978 adaptation of the Broadway hit The Wiz was the biggest production filmed in New York City up to that point, utilising the newly revamped Astoria Studios and locations around the city. Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell, and Ted Ross (reprising his Tony-winning role as the Lion) star in this Academy Award-nominated musical for the whole family. The Wiz is probably the grandest take on L. Frank Baum's classic tale The Wizard of Oz. The production team created sets with a sense of urban magic and spectacle: a New York subway station literally comes to life, and the massive plaza between the World Trade Center towers is transformed into the Emerald City, featuring nearly 400 dancers with three costume changes. Like all good musicals, the Quincy Jones arrangements are highly hummable long after viewing (especially the funky "Ease On Down the Road" and the inspirational "Brand New Day"). In an era before MTV, the camera stays nearly stationary as Ross and Lena Horne vocally soar through their numbers. Their stage-like performances successfully make the leap to film, making The Wiz a testament to their singing talents and star presence. The then-thirtysomething Ross raised some eyebrows playing the traditionally teenaged Dorothy, but she and her supporting cast (including Richard Pryor as the Wiz) carry the tunes with an infectious verve that will appeal to folks of all ages. --Shannon Gee