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The poster for THE WIZ at the 5th Ave Theater
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Credit: Jason M Burrows for KUOW

'The Wiz' brings Black song and joy to the 5th Avenue Theatre

By
With Special Guests
  • Kelli Foster-Warder
  • Kataka Corn

From its earliest off-broadway performances in 1974, to the movie featuring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson in 1978, all the way to modern day television and Broadway productions, “The Wiz” is famous for featuring Black voices and telling a uniquely Black story.

This year, the 5th Avenue Theatre is bringing “The Wiz “to Seattle with a new twist — this will be the 5th Avenue Theatre’s first all-Black production.

For director and choreographer Kelli Foster Warder, this production is a chance to grow the theater space. She explained how significant it is to her to be a part of this project.

“This is the first all-Black production at the Fifth Avenue, and across the country that's starting to happen. There are institutions that have been around for a long time doing good work and trying to make space. But in the last few years, they've realized that there's much more to do, and some theaters — like the Fifth Ave — are taking that work really seriously and inviting more people to the party.”

Warder said her idea of equity is building a bigger table, so existing people are not replaced, but more space is created so that additional folks have seats.

“We've really tried to be true to the idea that this story is not just a retelling of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ with Black people — it's actually a reimagining of a story through the lens of Black folks, and having many different Black folks who have a variety of life experiences,” Warder said.

One of the voices that will be highlighted in this production is that of Kataka Corn, who plays Dorothy. Corn said they were excited for the opportunity to play this iconic role.

“I think I was in shock when I found out, and I remained in shock for a good couple of months because everyone would bring it up to me, and I'm like, ‘Yes, that happened,’” Corn said.

Corn’s earliest memories of “The Wiz” are from high school, and using music from the original musical for auditions. However, as a youth theater teacher at the Village Theatre in Everett, Corn is using this production to introduce her students to the musical.

“All of my students are trying to come see the show,” Corn said. “I'm super excited. I love to show them that what I'm doing is possible, and that it can be fun. And it's also a struggle, but you can power through, and everything that I'm learning and experiencing, I get to share with them in real time.”

The Wiz is showing at the 5th Avenue Theatre from November 22 to December 23.