Needless to say, I am beyond excited for NBC’s live production of “The Wiz.” I’ve been watching “The Wiz” since I was four years old and mesmerized by it. This column appeared on Essence in May 2013 after I finally realized the meaning behind it.
“The Wiz” airs LIVE! on NBC, Thursday, December 3rd at 8/7c and stars Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, Ne-Yo, David Alan Grier, Common, Uzo Aduba, Amber Riley, Elijah Kelley, Stephanie Mills and introducing Shanice Williams as Dorothy. (Love for Passion star, James Brown III is a member of the ensemble)
The Wiz – A Spiritual Journey from Essence.com – May 2013
“There’s a feeling here inside that I cannot hide and I know I’ve tried, but it’s turning me around…I think the feeling is fear.” The lyrics to “Soon As I Get Home” from The Wiz set the stage for Dorothy’s journey through Oz. The entire African-American adaptation of The Wizard of Oz is a chronicle of a spiritual journey to finding yourself in the midst of chaos.
Earlier this week, one of my sister-friends found herself at a crossroads in her career and her personal life. She was feeling displaced in the crazy world that is New York City and, like Dorothy, felt as if she was “drowning.” I pulled out my copy of the original Broadway soundtrack from the musical and played for her, “Be A Lion.”
As I lip synced to Stephanie Mills, I know my sister-friend thought I was crazy until she began to pay attention to the words of the song. “And with no fear inside, no need to run, no need to hide. You’re standing strong and tall, you’re the bravest of them all, if on courage you must call, then just keep on trying. You’re a lion, in your own way be a lion.” She is encouraging the Cowardly Lion that he has always been a lion and that there was no need for him to try to be because he always was.
With that, my sister-friend began to get the point and, for me too, it opened a new understanding of the musical’s message. One of the things that perplexes us is our pursuit of so much in life, love and professionally. Instead of just being, we are constantly in search of some magic that will transform our lives. As The Wiz explains our joy lives inside of us and there is no need to search for it.
Upon the killing of Evilene, the cast sings, “Everybody Rejoice,” celebrating their newfound freedom from the evils of the world personified by the Wicked Witch. The song reminds us “the sun is shining just for us.” Freedom truly is a state of mind because all anyone had to do was pull the sprinkler system and she would have dissolved. Dorothy finally got the courage and everyone was free even though they always had the ability to do the same.
Further along in the musical, Glenda tells Dorothy “If you believe in your heart you’ll know that no one can change the path you must go.” Deep down, we all know that nothing will come to pass if you don’t first believe that it will. The anxiety that my sister-friend was feeling was a result from a lack of belief that her desired outcome would happen. In fact, the challenges and obstacles in her life made her lose her belief in herself.
In the finale, Dorothy sings about “Home” and in the original version Glenda tells her one of my favorite mantras, “You’ve Always Had The Power.” As she looks back on her journey through Oz she realizes that home lives inside of her spirit and that no matter what she can never be separated from it. She clicks her heels and then, she goes back home.
I wish I could say that I always got the messages of The Wiz before the other night. My intention was just to play one song for my sister-friend. The discovery that occurred took both of our understandings of our own journeys through life to another level. Truly, everything we need and want we already have. There is no need to search for courage, freedom or home.
Wishing you LOVE & CEASELESS JOY! Follow @NathanHWilliams on Twittter.