Indianapolis Museum of Art’s Summer Film Series: The Wiz

The 1970s were a time for disco and bad hair, a time for Nixon and Watergate, Vietnam and Hippies. . . and The Wiz: Motown’s take on L. Frank Baum’s classic children’s tale The Wizard of Oz. The Indianapolis Museum of Art presents the cult classic film The Wiz as part of their Summer Night’s Film Series on Friday, June 24 at 9 pm. Starring superstars like Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Richard Pryor and Lena Horne, the film takes the tale of Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tinman and the Coward Lion and places it in an urban setting with whimsically funky music from the Motown generation.

Tickets to this Indianapolis event are $10.00 for Indianapolis people and $5.00 for members of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Don’t miss The Wiz in the gorgeous outdoor setting of the IMA’s amphitheater near the Gardens at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
Based on a 1974 musical with music by Charlie Smalls and book by William F. Brown, The Wiz bring Oz to life through the context of African American culture. The 1975 Broadway production won seven coveted Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Original Socre, Best Featured Actor, Best Featured Actress and more. The play also took home four Drama Desk Awards of the nine it was nominated four. An early example of one of the first all black casts, The Wiz broke new ground in the world of Broadway.

The film pulled in big stars like Diana Ross and Michael Jackson to play the roles of Dorothy and the Scarecrow respectively. The plot follows Dorothy Gale, a 24 year old school teacher living with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry in Harlem. The introverted Dorothy is forced to chase after her dog Toto in a violent snow storm that transports her to the land of Oz. She soon meets Glinda the Good Witch (Lena Horne) who encourages her to believe in herself as she searches for a way back home.

Twists on Baum’s original story, like Munchkins who had been transformed into graffiti and a scarecrow made of garbage instead of straw, give the film its urban twist. The film also utilizes New York City landmarks liek the World Trade Center and the New York State Pavilion for large scale scenes. At the time it was made, the film was the most expensive movie ever made.
Unfortunately, the movie was a commercial flop, drawing in barely half of its expected revenue. To add insult to injury, critics panned the film, targeting Diana Ross as too old for the part of Dorothy. Many believed that what worked on stage simply did not translate to the silver screen. Characterized as one of the biggest failures in film, The Wiz did have one or two bright spots. Michael Jackson was largely praised for an innate acting ability.

Nearly forty years later, The Wiz is a time capsule of some of the most renowned and successful soul singers and African American actors from the time. Today, the film enjoys cult classic status, attracting die hard fans of Michael Jackson and Richard Pryor, who keep the film afloat.

Jump back in time with The Wiz on the outdoor big screen of the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s amphitheater. Before the movie, grab dinner at the nearby Indianapolis cultural district, Broad Ripple Village, with tons of Indianapolis restaurants. Afterward, enjoy a cocktail at any of these nearby Indianapolis bars.

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The Wiz
Friday, June 24, 2011

9 PM

The Indianapolis Museum of Art
4000 Michigan Road
Indianapolis, IN 46208