The Wiz (partially lost TV spot for Broadway musical; 1975)
The musical The Wiz presents an updated retelling of the children's story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It traditionally boasts an all African-American cast, and also had African-Americans perform such conceptual duties as writing the songs. It opened on Broadway in 1975 and would become one of the first Broadway musicals for which TV spots would form an integral part of the advertising campaign.
The Power of Television
The premiere of The Wiz received mixed reviews. In order to boost ticket sales, investor 20th Century Fox commissioned an aggressive advertising campaign. At the center, lay a TV spot with the lead actors performing their traveling anthem, "Ease On Down the Road".
The advertisements succeeded in convincing more people to watch The Wiz. Word of mouth became so positive that the show ran for four years on Broadway. Along the way, it earned seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It lives on today in re-stagings both professional and amateur and through the continued popularity of such numbers as "Ease On Down the Road". The Wiz also inspired two star-studded screen adaptations: a cult classic 1978 movie starring, among others, Diana Ross as Dorothy and Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow (in some of their only film performances), and an Emmy-winning 2015 TV special headlined by Queen Latifah as The Wiz.
As of May 2020, the TV spot that helped save The Wiz remains unavailable to watch online, at least in its original form. In December 2015, advertising agency Serino Coyne uploaded a promo from later in the original Broadway run onto YouTube. It apparently features almost none of the original cast, saves Stephanie Mills as Dorothy. It also showcases the song "If You Believe" (also known as, "Believe in Yourself"), instead of "Ease On Down the Road", with different lyrics.
In October 2016, YouTuber MicroJow uploaded another commercial for The Wiz, dated July 1978. This one actually shows a performance of "Ease on Down the Road", and seems to include more of the original cast. Another upload dated the commercial to 1975, stating that it began airing early into the show's initial Broadway run. However, both of these videos have an updated voiceover, boasting of the play's Tony wins.
- The Wiz: a virtual coffee table book.
- A three-part article from the Oz Museum, tracing the history of The Wiz from its Broadway premiere to the greenlighting of the TV special and a subsequent Broadway revival.
- "Ease On Down the Road" as heard on the original Broadway cast recording.