November 30, 2023

ABOVE PHOTO: This picture offered by O+M/DKC exhibits a portrait of Nichelle Lewis. Lewis has landed the position of Dorothy within the Broadway-bound manufacturing of “The Wiz.” (Gene Reed/O+M/DKC by way of AP)

By Mark Kennedy


NEW YORK — A 24-year-old triple menace who toured in “Hairspray,” competed on “American Idol” and got here to the eye of casting brokers along with her TikTok movies has landed the plum position of Dorothy within the Broadway-bound manufacturing of “The Wiz.”

Nichelle Lewis will star within the nationwide touring present this fall after which make her Broadway debut subsequent 12 months because the present’s heel-clicking heroine, following within the footsteps of such icons as Stephanie Mills and Diana Ross.

“It’s been a reasonably loopy journey,” she advised The Related Press earlier than her official unveiling Monday. “I’m honored to be making my debut as Dorothy. I do know I’m following in some actually massive footsteps.”

“The Wiz” excursions the U.S. beginning this fall in Baltimore and can land on Broadway in 2024. Lewis joins a solid that features Wayne Brady and Alan Mingo Jr. sharing the position of the Wiz, Deborah Cox as Glinda, Kyle Ramar Freeman because the Lion, Phillip Johnson Richardson because the Tin Man, and Avery Wilson because the Scarecrow.

Lewis, who grew up in Virginia and graduated from Molloy College in 2021, used her modest TikTok account to share her voice — one music was “House” from “The Wiz” — and it got here to the eye of casting brokers, who invited her to audition.

“I’m so excited that this is part of my story, as a result of I really feel like there’s so many individuals on the market who began out with such a small following and I really feel like they’re onerous on themselves about it,” she stated. “However I’m like, ‘You by no means know who’s watching these movies.’ I by no means knew that ‘The Wiz’ was taking a look at my movies.”

The present is tailored from “The Fantastic Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum, with a e-book by William F. Brown, and music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls.

Lewis says she identifies with Dorothy, who’s alone on a journey of self-discovery in a brand new world whereas additionally serving to others alongside the way in which discover out who they’re.

“I really feel prefer it’s extraordinarily vital for folks, particularly proper now, to see that they are often highly effective simply by being themselves and simply by being particular person and distinctive. So I believe that’s how the present speaks to me,” she stated.

“The Wiz” opened on Broadway in 1975 and received seven Tonys, together with greatest musical. It has such basic songs as “What Would I Do If I May Really feel” and “Ease On Down the Highway.” The unique Broadway manufacturing featured Mills as Dorothy, Dee Dee Bridgewater nearly as good witch Glinda and Andre De Shields because the Wiz.

A 1978 film model of “The Wiz” starred Ross, Lena Horne and Richard Pryor because the Wiz. Michael Jackson co-starred because the Scarecrow, with Nipsey Russell because the Tin Man and Ted Ross because the Lion. NBC televised a stay model in 2015 with Queen Latifah, Ne-Yo and David Alan Grier.

Lewis’ love of music was inspired by her father, who died when she was younger. At his service, she sang “My Assist,” a music he sang when he was a baby, and surprised the congregation.

“I don’t know what occurred that day, however I assume simply I had this voice come out of me that didn’t was once there, however in all probability got here from the hundreds of thousands of songs that I grew up listening to,” she says. “I felt prefer it was one thing that I might share with others and it was one thing that I observed made different folks joyful.”

Lewis received a Golden Ticket on the newest sequence of “American Idol” however didn’t progress from the Hollywood spherical. Now she’s earned one other — main a Broadway present.

Her mom, naturally, has been screaming and crying. “She’s like, ‘Your life goes to alter.’ And I’m like, ‘I don’t know. It in all probability will,’’ she says, laughing. ”I really feel so blessed and I’m so glad I get to share it along with her.”