Cast announced for Black British retelling of
‘The Wiz’ at Hope Mill Theatre this Christmas
Following its sold-out, critically acclaimed production of ‘Rent’, Manchester’s Hope Mill Theatre in association with Ameena Hamid Productions announces the cast for a radical new version of the 70s musical The Wiz: The Super Soul Musical “Wonderful Wizard of Oz”.
The Wiz will run from Wednesday 24 November 2021 to Sunday 16 January 2022.
Directed by Matthew Xia (‘Into the Woods’, Royal Exchange), The Wiz is a joyous retelling of L. Frank Baum’s classic children’s novel ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ reflecting contemporary African-American culture. Its 1975 Broadway premiere production won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
Matthew Xia said: “The Wiz is approaching its 50th anniversary, it now exists within the canon of mainstream musicals and it’s due time for some bold reinvention. Originally a funk and soul-based analogy for the African-American experience, in 2021 Manchester we’re offering a contemporary take on the discovery of self-determination and Black joy with this celebration of Black culture across the African diaspora.”
Cast: Cherelle Wiliams is Dorothy; Tarik Frimpong, Scarecrow; Llewellyn Graham, Tin Man; Jonathan Andre, Lion; Cameron Bernard Jones, The Wiz; Anelisa Lamola, Addaperle; Bree Smith, Aunt Em & Glinda; Kofi Dennis, Lord High; Ashh Blackwood, Evillene. Ensemble: Andile Mabhena, Shayna McPherson, Dylan Gordon-Jones, Samantha Shuma, Marisha Morgan.
The show is produced by Hope Mill Theatre, Ameena Hamid Productions & Chuchu Nwagu Productions.
Creative team: Director Matthew Xia; Musical Supervisor and Orchestrations Sean Green; Musical Director Ehsaan Shivarani; Choreographer Leah Hill; Design Simon Kenny; Associate Costume Design Maybelle Laye; Lighting Design Simisola Majekodunmi; Sound Design Tony Gayle; Casting Director Ryan Carter; Casting Mentor Anne Vosser.
Musical Supervisor Sean Green has created new orchestrations. “In thinking about how much the music is loved, I had the thought What if the music was a love letter to black music? I started hearing all sorts of music within the DNA of the score. This exploration has allowed me to incorporate various genres from across the African Diaspora in the new orchestrations which, alongside the funk and soul in the original, really adds depth and colour to the world that we’re creating with this production.”
Jonathan Andre (he/him) was in ‘The Lion King’ (West End) and ‘Fela!’ (Broadway, US Tour, NT).
Kofi Dennis (he/him) joined Creation Theatre’s digital rep company in 2021 appearing as Romeo in ‘Romeo and Juliet’, ‘Grimm Tales for Fragile Minds and Broken People’, ‘The Duchess of Malfi’ and ‘Keeping up with Kassandra’.
Tarik Frimpong (he/him) His theatre credits include ‘Aladdin’ (West End), ‘Bring It On’, ‘The Lion King’ (Australia, China), and he was ‘Angus’ in the Disney feature film ‘Mary Poppins Returns’. He is ‘Prince Abdullah’ in ‘Aladdin Live!’ to be released soon on Disney+.
Dylan Gordon-Jones (he/him) was in ‘Grease – The Musical’ (UK Tour).
Llewellyn Graham (he/him) ‘The Wiz’ is his professional debut.
Cameron Bernard Jones (he/him) was in ‘South Pacific’ (Chichester Festival Theatre) and his West End credits include ‘Tina: The Tina Turner Musical’ (Aldwych), ‘Motown the Musical’ (Shaftesbury).
Anelisa Lamola (she/her) was Heather in ‘Sunset Boulevard’ (Alexandra Palace Theatre), ‘The Color Purple’ (Curve/Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre) and ‘Some Like It Hip Hop (UK Tour/Peacock).
Shayna McPherson (she/her) ‘The Wiz’ is her professional debut.
Andile Mabhena (he/him) ‘The Wiz’ is his professional debut.
Marisha Morgan (she/her) ‘The Wiz’ is her professional debut.
Samantha Shuma (She/her) ‘The Wiz’ is her professional debut.
Bree Smith (she/her) was in ‘Book of Mormon’ in the West End, 1st Cover Anita in ‘West Side Story’ (Royal Exchange Theatre) and ensemble in ‘Evita’ (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre).
Cherelle Williams (she/her) her West End credits are Young Nala in ‘The Lion King’ (Lyceum) and Mary Wilson/cover Diana Ross in ‘Motown the Musical’ (Shaftesbury)
Matthew Xia (Director) is the Artistic Director of ATC (Actors Touring Company). He was previously Associate Artistic Director at the Royal Exchange Theatre. His credits include ‘Into the Woods’ and ‘Frankenstein’ (Royal Exchange), ‘846 Live’ (Stratford East), ‘Amsterdam’ (ATC/Orange Tree/Plymouth Theatre Royal), ‘One Night In Miami’ (Nottingham Playhouse); ‘Blue Orange’ (Young Vic).
Sean Green (Orchestrations and Musical Supervisor) is currently Musical Director on the new West End musical ‘Get Up! Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical’. Other credits include Musical Director of ‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert’ (UK Tour); ‘Leave To Remain’ (Lyric Hammersmith); ‘Twelfth Night’ (Young Vic); ‘The Wedding Singer’(UK Tour); ‘Murder Ballad’ at Arts Theatre West End; ‘The Buskers Opera’ (Park Theatre); ‘Into the Woods’ (Royal Exchange Theatre).
Simon Kenny (Designer) Musical theatre credits include: Dave Molloy’s ‘Ghost Quartet’ (Boulevard Theatre); and the multi award-winning ‘Sweeney Todd’ in a purpose-built pie shop (West End and Off-Broadway – Drama Desk Nomination for Outstanding Set Design of a Musical).
Leah Hill (Choreographer) In addition to a plethora of experience on stage and screen as a performer in the West End and internationally, her credits include the Disney live action film ‘Aladdin’ as assistant choreographer.
The Wiz local outreach plans include: an audio described performance; Touch Tour; BSL Performance; Dance or Singing workshops for schools in our Community Hub with members of the cast; Wiz-themed workshops in schools with our facilitation team; The Hope Mill Theatre School will receive a Wiz workshop and Q and A with members of the cast and crew; a Wiz dance workshop with members of the cast for the general public – also available to join on zoom; a Schools Pack which will be available to schools with extension work for the classroom; careers social media videos featuring interviews with
the Wiz creatives about how they got into their chosen career path; careers in the arts webinar with members of the creative team available for school/members of the public; free tickets through our first curtain scheme for local children who haven’t been to the theatre before/or couldn’t access it.
Hope Mill Theatre
The award-winning Hope Mill Theatre was the dream of couple Joseph Houston and William Whelton, who, after a career in Musical Theatre and living in London, became inspired by the highly regarded off-West End theatres and the high-quality work they were producing. With the growing theatre industry blossoming in Manchester and no medium-sized venues producing musicals, they set up and established the independent venue in November 2015. The venue has firmly placed itself on the northern map for its ambitious in-house musical productions, which include: Rags; Parade; Hair – the Musical (London, UK Tour); the UK premiere of Yank! (Charing Cross Theatre, London); the European premiere of Little Women, Spring Awakening, Pippin (Southwark Playhouse, London); Aspects of Love (Southwark Playhouse); The Return of the Soldier, Putting It Together, Rags (The Park Theatre) and most recently Mame (starring Tracie Bennett) and the World Premiere of the new musical The Astonishing Times of Timothy Cratchit. In October 2016, Joseph and William were awarded the Hospital Club Award for contribution to theatre and performance. In 2017, they picked up a Special Achievement Award at the Manchester Theatre Awards. The venue was nominated for the Peter Brook Empty Space Award, won a Northern Soul Award for small theatre of the year and won the prestigious The Stage Fringe Theatre of the Year Award in 2018. The venue was also awarded the WhatsOnStage Awards’- WhatsOffStageAward for Best Front of House Team and Favourite Theatre in 2018. They were also recently nominated for a Manchester City Council Culture Award for Outstanding Contribution.
Joseph and William joined forces with Katy Lipson of Aria Entertainment to spearhead the venue as a regional home for new musicals and musical revivals, and their successful collaboration saw them named on The Stage 100 list in 2018/19 and 2019/20. William Whelton is a recipient of the Stage One young producers bursary for emerging producers. The venue has recently transitioned into a charity – A Factory of Creativity CIO – allowing the venue to continue its extraordinary work, including supporting emerging artists and new work, working with young people and offering mentorship in the arts, as well as securing their future in the UK Theatre landscape.
Ameena Hamid Productions
Ameena Hamid Productions Ltd is a London-based theatrical production company specialising in creative production, general management, research, and development. Ameena Hamid Productions is led by creative producer and company director Ameena Hamid and the company’s work focuses on putting underrepresented voices centre stage and increasing inclusivity and representation in theatre. Ameena has been heralded as “a true role model to the future generations” by Official London Theatre and is the youngest producer currently working and youngest ever female producer on the West End having cut her teeth as Associate Producer on ‘Death Drop’ and worked as Assistant Producer to ‘The Show Must Go on Live’. Ameena was an EdFringe and British Council Emerging Producer and one of Stage One’s Bridge the Gap Producers. She is on the Board of the League of Independent Producers, part of the Creative Freelances Shaping London’s Recovery Advisory Group and a Line Producer at Soho Theatre. Ameena Hamid Productions has produced and curated work at Cadogan Hall, The Garrick Theatre, The Actors Centre, Vault Festival, Applecart Arts, Battersea Arts Centre and more in London and across the UK as well as creating online theatre, film and audio work for global audiences.
Chuchu Nwagu Productions
Chuchu Nwagu Productions Ltd is a black-led theatrical and live entertainment production company specialising in development of new work and producing work that celebrates, champions and promotes diversity, intersectionality and culture. After spending two years leading a Students’ Union with a million-pound turnover, in 2019 Chuchu decided to combine his eye for business and passion for theatre & the arts to form Chuchu Nwagu Productions. Chuchu is Apprentice Producer on the West End transfer of ‘Amélie the Musical’ and Assistant Producer on Talawa Theatre Company’s ‘Run It Back’ & ‘The Tide’. Chuchu Nwagu Productions is lead producing the world premiere of a new musical to be announced next year and developing a new musical based around the events of the 2011 UK Riots.