The Wiz, an adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, is described at the Guide to Musical Theatre website as “a black version of the perennial Wizard of Oz,” and by IMDb as an adaptation “of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ that tries to capture the essence of the African American experience.” But according to students and parents at New York’s Cicero-North Syracuse High School, a student production of the play is missing one important element of that experience: black actors. According to one parent, African-American families plan to boycott the show to protest that casting decision.
“It sends the message that there are no talented African-American students, and that message is a lie,” parent Letrice Titus said at a school board meeting this week. Cicero North-Syracuse High School has 93 African-American students out of a total student body of about 2,200, according to the Syracuse Post-Standard. The school told that publication that only seven of them tried out, and only one for a leading role.
“You don’t cast for a show based on the color of someone’s skin or someone’s sex,” the school’s musical and technical director said. “You cast for who can pull off the role.” It’s a point that’s at once totally valid and fair, and very unlikely to make the all-white Wiz performance feel any more acceptable to the school’s black community.
Read more at the Syracuse Post-Standard.