Saturday, May 2, 2009

Ashanti & The Wiz

Another former chart topper is ready to make a splash in theater. A spokesperson has confirmed that Ashanti will play the starring role of Dorothy in the New York City Center Encores production of 'The Wiz,' playing June 12 – July 5 at New York City Center. Previously starring R&B veteran Stephanie Mills in the original 1974 production, 'The Wiz' is a rock and soul classic musical based on the beloved L. Frank Baum story about Dorothy and her adventures in Oz. Music legend Diana Ross portrayed the role in a glitzy Sidney Lumet-helmed production in 1978. For the stage revival, Thomas Kail will direct, with Andy Blankenbuehler handling choreography. Music direction will be headed by Alex Lacamoire (a part of the team responsible for the Tony-winning 'In the Heights').

Playing Dorothy on the New York stage shouldn't be much of a stretch for the former Def Jam Records hit maker; she played the role in the ambitious TV special 'The Muppets' Wizard of Oz' in 2005. Queen Latifah, David Alan Grier, Jeffrey Tamor and Quentin Tarantino also starred in the telepic.


I am surprised that Ashanti successfully auditioned for this role. I didn't think she had the vocal ability to play Dorothy. When she first hit the music scene, I thought she was a manufactured pop artist. Her singing was marginal at best and her sideburns were thicker than mine. As time progressed, her music improved and she did what was necessary to improve her aesthetic. Ms. Douglas has some of the best legs in the business. I understand why music artists try to branch out into acting. Music industry money is very inconsistent. Diana Ross, Whitney Houston and Queen Latifah have had success in both worlds. Unfortunately, some artists rush into acting and embarrass themselves. I hope Ashanti is able to hone her craft and have a solid acting career.

I look forward to seeing her rendition of "Ease on Down the Road." It's my favorite song on The Wiz soundtrack. I wish Micheal Jackson was still the happy go lucky kid he appeared to be in the movie. Oh well, at least we have the memories.

Ease on down, ease on down the road
Come on, ease on down
Ease on down the road
Don't you carry nothing
That might be a load
Come on, ease on down
Ease on down the road