The Wiz: The contemporary musical retake on L. Frank Baum’s classic presented at the Tower Theater

American poet and memoirist Maya Angelou once said, “You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it’s all right.” 

This profound concept of home is one of the many powerful themes that surrounds Liberty University and Alluvion Stage Company’s “The Wiz.”

Serving as a contemporary rendition of L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” “The Wiz” follows Dorothy Gale’s journey through the magical land of Oz to find her way back home to Kansas. The musical, which fuses jazz, rock, hip-hop and soul music, celebrates African American culture and self-discovery. 

“The ways in which God has shown up and directed the path of this production has been amazing,” director Andy Geffken said. “I’m really excited for our community and campus to be able to enjoy this story. It’s a joyful show, and it’s a really attractive prospect to bring something that is new, fresh and different.” 

“The Wiz” includes a variety of themes, including the importance of companionship, self-esteem and the power of imagination. As Dorothy and the other characters embark on an adventure through Oz, they each discover that home is not just a physical place, but a state of mind and disposition of the heart. 

“When you look at the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, the Lion and Dorothy, you think that we’re all trying to find our way back home,” Stanley Brown, a Grammy-nominated music producer who serves as the production’s musical director, said. “Whatever home is to you — whether it’s love or whatever — we get a chance to convey this message to a generation who may have never seen Judy Garland.” 

Photo by Jason Tong

The production’s cast, crew and orchestra are composed of 90 individuals.

“This cast is really diverse as far as where they are coming from,” Geffken said. “We have a number of students — upperclassmen and underclassmen. We have graduate students. We have alumni. We have community members. We have people who have never done theatre before. Some people who have never been onstage before are going to be in this cast. … This cast is all excellent, and they are all crazy about ‘The Wiz.’”

The two main characters in “The Wiz” are Trinity Wood, a senior who plays Dorothy, and Joel Ashur, a 2014 Liberty alumnus who plays the Wiz. 

“We knew Joel. We knew what he was capable of,” Geffken said. “We knew not only the caliber of his talent, but also who he was as an individual and how he would have been such a unifying factor in investing in students and our audience who have missed him.” 

Photo by Jason Tong

Wood reflected on her remarkable acting experience as the heroine in “The Wiz.” 

“When you’re going into a role, you’re looking to have empathy for that person. When you know that person like the back of your hand and you’re willing to fight for them — that’s when the performance is really truthful,” Wood said. “It was not hard for me to connect with Dorothy. I think what’s so beautiful about this show is that we’re asking questions of identity. That was a place that I found myself in when I was 14, which is Dorothy’s age. This whole process has been really personal and sweet. It just feels like a love letter to my family and to the department. It’s beautiful.” 

From Kansas to Oz, each set design, musical piece and costume in “The Wiz” is meticulously crafted. 

As the curtains unravel at the onset of the performance, the audience is transported into a rural Kansas countryside. Signaling an impending tornado, foreboding gray skies loom over rolling fields. A windmill stands in the distance alongside a rustic wooden house. Farmers’ clothing drapes from clothespins as Toto runs across the stage. 

The harmonious unison of voices infused with a gospel flair, accompanied by occasional bursts of funky jazz from wind instruments and the joyful melodies of the orchestra, collectively creates a dance-inducing ambience throughout the musical that reaches to the heart. 

“It’s not always about what people hear. It’s about what they feel,” Brown said. “Sometimes we can present something because we have it in front of us. But how do we add the feeling to this composition or to this masterpiece? I believe what comes from the heart reaches the heart.” 

Photo by Jason Tong

As Dorothy embarks on her journey back home, the land of Oz is adorned with a glittery tapestry among colorful circular cutouts. Resembling the iconic yellow brick road, a set of stairs is centered on the stage to provide a pathway for the characters to follow. 

Later in the musical, the Emerald City captivates the audience with its visual imagery indicative of power and mystery. A vibrant array of green lights flashes around the stage. Among the green hues, a gigantic cutout of the imposing Wiz stands as the focal point of his majestic yellow castle. 

Throughout the production, Dorothy wears a flower dress with a yellow jacket. For her shoes, she wears dazzling, sparkly silver slippers, which play a significant role in the musical. From the vibrant outfits of the Munchkins to the dashing, bougie attire adorned with green glasses worn by the people of the Emerald City, the costumes in “The Wiz” are sure to captivate the audience. 

Photo by Jason Tong

“The Wiz” celebrates diversity and the heritage of African American culture.    

“Dorothy is meeting people and caring and loving people who look nothing like her,” Brown said. “It’s going to take a tornado for some people to understand how to love those who look nothing like you or don’t come from your background or culture.” 

Because of the performance, audience members are more motivated to see the best in everybody.

“When you have stories about people’s human nature, that’s something everyone can resonate with,” Geffken said.

Wood described “The Wiz” as a positive theatrical experience for everyone. 

“There’s no negativity. It’s just happy and joyful. It’s celebration — it’s worship,” Wood said. “That’s something that we’ve been really trying to keep in our mind’s eye, and our vision … is that it’s worship to the Lord and not for man.”

Come and ease on down the road to watch “The Wiz,” showing in Tower Theater from April 19 to May 5. For ticket information, visit

Solem is the asst. feature editor for the Liberty Champion. Follow him on X

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