Cicero-North Syracuse High School of Cicero, N.Y., is receiving criticism for its all-White cast of “The Wiz” (pictured), according to Syracuse.com.
To some, the all-White cast misrepresents the available talent of African-American students.
“It sends the message that there are no talented African-American students and that message is a lie,” Letrice Titus, an African-American woman, told the Post-Standard.
“Was there any outreach to the African-American students in the school? Why didn’t the school just do ‘The Wizard of Oz’?”
Last month, Titus reportedly voiced her concerns to the school’s musical director, Caryn Patterson, after her daughter, Kierrah Titus, auditioned for a lead role in the play.
Titus dropped out of the cast, after officials offered her an ensemble role instead of the lead role she auditioned for.
“I’m not just a parent upset that my daughter didn’t get a role,” Letrice Titus said. “I think it’s wrong.”
While Patterson declined to speak with the Post Standard, the school is defending her casting choices. According to C-NS Executive Principal Melissa Julian, only seven African-American students auditioned for the musical and Kierrah was the only one to seek the lead role.
“She makes it a steady point to encourage diversity for her performances,” Dan Bowles, the district’s associate superintendent for teaching and learning, said in Patterson’s defense. “She wants as much diversity in all of her productions as possible.”
But that argument isn’t standing well with others who want to see more color in the production.
“To not let a Black student have an acting role in this play is appalling,” NACCP New York State Chapter President Preston Fagan said. “It’s almost an insult.”
This isn’t the first time a local school district has performed “The Wiz” with no Black students. Jordan-Elbridge High School also of New York did so last year.
“We approached the musical with a 1970s flavor,” noted Drew Deapo, the musical’s technical director.
Initially opening on Broadway in the mid-1970s, “The Wiz” became a film in 1978 and starred icons Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. “The Wiz” is an African-American adaption of ‘The Wizard of Oz.”