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London, Ont., high school pulls plan to stage The Wiz after 'white washing' criticism

London, Ont., high school pulls plan to stage The Wiz after 'white washing' criticism
From CBC - October 12, 2017

A London, Ont., high schoolhas pulled the plug on plans to stage the musicalThe Wiz this year amid criticism the production would be a "white-washing"of theWizard of Oz adaptation told from an African Americanperspective.

H.B. Beal Secondary School principal Michael Deebsaid the decision came on Thursday, a little more than a week after the schoolannounced The Wiz as its annual production.

"The team has decided to respect and listen to the voices in our community and choose another production," said Deeb."We want to be culturally sensitive. It's a good learning piece for everyone. We value the input from our community. In that spirit, we are going to be choosing another production."

For years,Beal'srenown Musical Theatre program has staged well-reviewed student productions of musicals includingWest Side Story,Les MiserablesandFame.

On Oct. 4, the school posted a Facebookvideo revealing The Wizwas chosen as this school year's production.

Wave of criticism

This year's choice of musical came under fire because The Wizretells the Wizard of Ozstory from a black, urban perspective.

Alexandra Kane, a local performer and owner of the AK Arts Academy, publishedaletter of protest on Facebook on Thursday. She expressed concern it wouldbe a"white-washed" production of a musical written in part as a response to an under-representation of black stories on Broadway and in film.

Kane feared Beal's production would feature a predominantly white cast.Officials at the schoolhad not yet announced the cast for its production ofTheWiz.

"To do this musical without the proper cast and crew is egregious and disrespectful to a culture [that]continues to struggle on a daily basis, battling discrimination, racism, and cultural appropriation," she wrote in the protest letter posted onFacebook.

Previously, The Wiz has been produced as a Broadway musical, a1978 movie starring Diana Ross, Michael Jackson and Richard Pryor and a 2015 television production starring singer Mary J. Blige and hip-hop artist/actor Queen Latifah.

'Not appropriate' for the cast

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