Presents the Musical


Book by William F. Brown

Music and Lyrics by Charlie Smalls

Directed and Choreographed by Patdro Harris

Musical Direction by Carlton Leake

June 25 - July 26, 2009

(L-R) Melanie Finley as Dorothy and Gary E. Vincent as the Scarecrow in THE WIZ Now Showing at the Ensemble Theatre through July 26th, 2009.  Photo by David Bray Photography.




Interview with the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion at

Ensemble Theatre’s 2009 Production of THE WIZ

By Theresa Pisula
June, 2009
Houston, Texas

THE WIZ is an American musical film produced by Motown Productions and Universal Pictures, and released by Universal on October 24, 1978.  It featured popular celebrities of the time: Diana Ross as Dorothy, Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow, Nipsey Russell as the Tin Man, Ted Ross as the Cowardly Lion and Richard Pryor in the title role.  The movie was adapted from the 1975 Broadway musical of the same name.  In the same year 1975, THE WIZ won the Tony Award for Best Musical and Best Musical Score.

An urbanized retelling of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz featuring an entirely African-American cast, the film follows the adventures of Dorothy who finds herself magically transported to the wonderful Land of Oz.  Befriended by a Scarecrow, a Tin Man, and a Cowardly Lion, Dorothy travels through the world of Oz to seek an audience with the mysterious “Wiz”, who they say has the power to take her home.


1978 Movie Production of THE WIZ starring Diana Ross as Dorothy, Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow, Ted Ross as the Lion and Nipsey Russell as the Tin Man.  Photo courtesy of


Houston’s Ensemble Theatre invites you to the magical wonderland of Oz where adventure is infused with a musical mixture of Rock, Gospel, and Soul music. Come join Dorothy and her amazing friends — the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the cowardly Lion — as they ease on down the yellow brick road. All of them looking, reaching and searching with all of their hearts for a place called “home.”  

On Opening Night of THE WIZ June 25th, 2009 the death of one of the world’s most iconic superstars Michael Jackson was reported.  The news was so sudden and immediate that the reverberating shock was felt around the world especially at the Ensemble Theatre right before THE WIZ was about to be performed onstage.  I interviewed Gary E. Vincent who plays Michael Jackson’s role the Scarecrow and Anthony Boggess-Glover who plays the Cowardly Lion to explore their feelings on the sudden death of the King of Pop.




Gary E. Vincent is a Renaissance artist who resides in Harlem.  His Broadway credits include The Great Men of Gospel for which he won an Audelco Award.  He was also in Boscoe and The Devil as the role of Boscoe written by Ruby Dee, and in Sweet Momma Stringbean written by Beth Turner. 

Theresa:  Where were you when you found out about the death of Michael Jackson?

Gary:  I was in the theatre.  We were getting ready for the show and the sound check was going on.  One of the cast members came in really upset because the last thing I heard was that he was in the hospital.  It wasn’t until just before show time I found out that he passed.  And then I realized I was the only one in the world right now singing You Can’t Win which is not in the stage production of THE WIZ but in the film.  And so a great sense of responsibility and honor kind of hit upon me right before the show so I just gave it all I had simply because I knew this is it.




Written by Charlie Smalls for the Movie Musical The Wiz

Performed by Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow

You can't win
You can't break even
And you can't get out of the game
People keep sayin'
Things are gonna change
But they look just like
You're stayin' the same

You get in
way over your head
And you only got yourself to blame
You can't win Child
You can't break even
And you can't get out of the game

You can't win
The world keeps movin'
And you're standin' far behind
People keep sayin'
Things'll get better
Just to ease your state of mind
So you lean back, and you smoke that smoke
And you drink your glass of wine
So you can't win, Child
You can't break even
And you can't get out of the game

You can't win, you can't win no way
If your story stays the same
You ain't winnin',
No, no,
But it's nice to see you
I'm awfully glad you came

Better cool it
'Cause it ain't about losin'
Then the world has got no shame



Theresa:  I cried.  I was listening to Beat It on the radio and I started to cry (laughs).  I really did.  Out of all his songs, I thought to myself, why Beat It?  It’s just that I love Michael Jackson so much….

Gary:  Oh, I still haven’t really processed it. 

Theresa:  Oh I know.  I was so shocked.  I’m still in depression….

Gary:  And knowing that he was such an icon.  Not just onstage but offstage.  And he’s the person I parallel my work ethic after all these years.  I’m proud to be able to step in and continue the legacy that he began a long time ago.

Theresa:  What is it like playing the Scarecrow, a part that he played in the movie?

Gary:  It’s magical.  It’s destiny.  Who could have foreseen all of this happening, you know?  So I was telling Eileen Morris (Artistic Director of the Ensemble Theatre), that I’m honored to be doing this role.  And I tell her every day that I’m gonna hit the ball out of the park because I know.  There are two Scarecrows running right now, that’s us here at the Ensemble Theatre in Houston and the Encore Series Broadway Company.  So it’s just a phenomenal time, it’s exciting.  It’s sad but exciting at the same time.  It’s an honor.

Theresa:  I’m so proud of you.

Gary:  Thank you.

Theresa:  Tell us about the part that you’re playing, the part that Michael Jackson played in the movie…..

Gary:  the Scarecrow who is the first friend that Dorothy meets in her journey to Oz.  So we become instant friends.  The chemistry between Melanie and I (Melanie Finley plays the role of Dorothy), you can’t pay for it.

Theresa:  (Laughs).


MELANIE FINLEY stars as  Dorothy in Ensemble Theatre's 2009 Production of THE WIZ.


Gary:  She’s such a sweetheart, she’s the perfect Dorothy.  And I care about her from beginning to end. It just makes the onstage chemistry even greater.

Theresa:  Sort of like the relationship between Michael Jackson and Diana Ross.

Gary:  Yeah.

Theresa:  How did you become a part of this musical?

Gary:  I was hired by Eileen Morris.  And I worked with the choreographer and director.  This is my ninth show with Patdro Harris.  They were looking for a Scarecrow, and I called him and said I’m available.  If you can use me, I’m gonna have to come and do it so….

Theresa:  And you’re from Harlem…

Gary:  I’m from New York, yes I live in Harlem.  Actually a friend of mine from Houston called me and said, “You know they’re looking for a Scarecrow…” and I’m like, “Okay I’ll call them right now, immediately.”  And then destiny took over.  When I came I was ready to jump in and take the ride with everyone. 

Theresa:  At the time you found out about Michael Jackson passing away, you were not in rehearsal, you were already in the show…..

Gary:  It was opening night!  Right!!!  Isn’t that amazing?  I found out opening night right before the show started that he passed away.  So I was stunned.  In conjunction with that I still had a job to do.  So my whole focus was, “Okay, this is it!”  Take all that emotion, all of those memories and make it happen.  And the show was magical that night.  Like I said, I still haven’t really processed it yet.  Because everywhere I go the question being asked is, “How does it feel to play the role that Michael Jackson played?”  And all I can say is, “I’m honored.”  But I don’t have any words after that.  I still haven’t been able to process my own feelings about it.


EILEEN J. MORRIS is the Artistic Director of the Ensemble Theatre.


Theresa:  Have you worked with Eileen Morris and the Ensemble Theatre before?

Gary:  Yes.  I did a show here 3 years ago Christmas Is Comin’ Uptown and a year or two before that I did a play in Pittsburgh where she was actually the company manager for the Kuntu Repertory Theatre at the University of Pittsburgh.

Theresa:  So you didn’t have to audition for this production of The Wiz….

Gary:  I didn’t and that’s because she knew my work before and it’s a blessing in terms of her work ethic, professionalism and reputation.

Theresa:  Can you tell us about your past background?

Gary:  I was born in San Francisco, raised in Seattle Washington, went to high school in Washington DC, the Duke Ellington School of the Arts.  I got my degree in theatre from Howard University.  I’ve been a performer all my life, that’s all I’ve ever done.  I started at 5 so I’ve been doing it for over 25 years.  And it’s been a blessing to just be a performing artist all of my life.  In terms of being a child performer, it’s all I’ve ever done.

Theresa:  You have a lot of things in common with Michael Jackson.  He started out at a very young age also.  You were most recently seen in a new great piece of theatre work written by Thomas Jones…..

Gary:  I have performed on three Off-Broadway shows and yes I’m actually on a piece called Cool Papa’s Party written by Thomas Jones and choreographed by Maurice Hines.  It is scheduled for Broadway this fall.  So, it’s just a matter of time….

Theresa:  I’m very excited for you.  But it’s sad about what happened.

Gary:  But we take that sadness and we allow the sadness to become joy because he was such an inspiration on and offstage.  Even when they show the videos of his past work, you get excited all over again…..Thriller….and Beat It and Billie Jean….

Theresa:  What’s your most favorite Michael Jackson video?

Gary:  I don’t have one because they’re all great!  They were all great!!!  And they’re all stylized.  And he also studied the greats….Fred Astaire and…..

Theresa:  Gene Kelly…….

Gary:  All of them!!!  So those of us who got behind Michael gets to study him and those greats as well.  It’s just a wonderful blessing and honor.

Theresa:  Michael Jackson had such great respect for the art of music and dance.  Liza Minnelli was just recently interviewed and she said that he wanted to learn so much from the great artists before him.

Gary:  Liz Taylor, Diana Ross…..the list goes on and on. 

Theresa:  What would you like to say to the Houston theatre-going audience? 

Gary:  Just that I’m honored to be working at this time and to be doing this particular role.  And I look forward for things to be getting greater and greater.

Theresa:  And the spirit of Michael Jackson lives on….

Gary:  Absolutely.


(L-R) Nipsey Russell, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross and Ted Ross starred in the 1978 Movie THE WIZ.  Photo courtesy of



Anthony Boggess-Glover plays the role of the Cowardly Lion in Ensemble Theatre’s 2009 Production of The Wiz.  Anthony is a 21-year veteran of the Ensemble Theatre and his professional appearances include work with The Houston Grand Opera, the Alley Theatre, TUTS, the Great Caruso Dinner Theatre and Main Street Theatre just to name a few.  Among his favorite performances are Ain’t Misbehavin’, Little Shop of Horrors, Once On This Island, One Mo Time, Showboat, The Tap Dance Kid and The Twelve Ways of Christmas, in which he got to play the role of Ron twice.  He’s a graduate of HSPVA (High School for the Performing and Visual Arts), attended the University of Houston and SUNY Purchase in New York.  He’s performed abroad in China, Egypt, Norway and Portugal and been afforded the honor of performing for the last six U. S. Presidents.  He’s been the artistic and musical director for the NAACP ACT-SO Competition and Gala since 1997.  He has a great smile, a very positive demeanor and a deep and hearty laugh that is simply contagious.

Theresa:  Tell us about the part that you’re playing….

Anthony:  I am the lion - the cowardly lion (laughs).  I’m looking for courage which I really think the lion has already.

Theresa:  (Laughs) he does. 

Anthony:  He really knows it but he doesn’t know it.  And he’s protective of Dorothy.  Throughout the show you get a chance to see that he and Dorothy have this special relationship.  He’s always hugging her and keeping him near her whereas the Scarecrow and Tin Man are always together.  So even though there were 4 friends, they’re all very close in a good way.




Theresa:  Were you born in Houston?

Anthony:  Yes, born in Houston.  I’m a native Houstonian.  I went to HSPVA and then to UH.  After UH, I went to the State University of New York Purchase.  So I’ve had a wide, wide range of schooling.  I’ve had some wonderful teachers.

Theresa:  You have such a distinctive voice.  You’ve worked with the Houston Grand Opera…..

Anthony:  Yes.  I’ve worked with Texas Opera Theatre.  I’ve been doing quite a few things.  I’m a classically trained opera singer.  You have to be able to do all facets of music to work in this town and everywhere now.  There used to be a time when you can just do one thing.  Now you have to be able do them all.

Theresa:  Wow, awesome.  Where were you when you found out about Michael Jackson?

Anthony:  Oh my God!  I was actually getting ready for opening night.  I was at home looking at the news and they said Michael Jackson had a cardiac arrest.  I thought, “Okay, he’ll pull through it, everything’s fine.”  I’m pulling myself together, getting things together and then Charles Gibson from World News comes on with the special report.  I said “No!!!” 

And they showed Michael’s face with year of his birth and death in the bottom of the picture.  I literally, I just stood there in front of my television like, “Oh my God…”  And then, of course I started thinking, it’s Opening Night for us.  It was kind of somber but everybody was like, we’ll make it through, we’ll pull through it. 

It hit me when we were onstage because there’s a part in the show where The Wiz is giving out the gifts.  And he goes to the Scarecrow and says, “I have brains.”  And he pulls out this box and the way it’s staged with us, there’s a picture of Michael Jackson on the box!

Theresa:  Oh no (laughs)!!!

Anthony:  (Laughing) Oh my God!!!  I was like, “Oh, he’s really gone!”  Then it hit us.  But you know it was a good thing because he will be with us every time we go on.  We’re like, wow it’s really nice for him to do a show, now we’re doing it and he’s onstage with us. 

Theresa:  You know I’m in love with him so much because his songs get me so emotional.  Even now he makes me laugh and cry at the same time.  Every performance of this show is now magical and significant….

Anthony:  And things happen onstage where we start feeling things like, “Oh, that’s what that meant.”  I mean, there’s six weeks of rehearsal and I start to finally get it.  It’s like what Oprah calls her “A-ha” moment (laughs).  It’s magical every time.  And the audience does that because they are different.  I think that’s why so many people love live theatre because it’s the illusion of doing it for the very first time even if you’ve done it 10 weeks over.


TOMMIE HARPER stars as the Tin Man in Ensemble Theatre's 2009 Production of THE WIZ.



Theresa:  I heard this show is sold out!!!

Anthony:  Actually I did a show last year here when they announced that they were doing The Wiz for the season closer.  Ticket sales just sky rocketed.  This is the first time in the theater’s history that a show was sold out before it previewed.

Theresa:  Wow. 

Anthony:  As a matter of fact, even after we extended one week, they came back and asked us to extend it another week.  So we’re doing good.

Theresa:  How has Michael Jackson influenced your life?

Anthony:  Oh my God.  The Jackson 5 (I’m showing my age now) I thought I was always one of the five boys.  Although Michael was one of the youngest, he was the one who did all the singing and everything, so that was me!  I remember the days watching his music, his first video Rock With You.

Theresa:  Off The Wall is my favorite album.

Anthony:  I will never forget my favorite story with Off The Wall.  My mother and I were Christmas shopping and we were in Target.  She sent me off to do something.  And then I was going through the bags.  She got on my case because I was in the bags.  Come to find out later, it was the Off The Wall album.  She bought it for me for my Christmas present. 

Theresa:  I just remember I was a teenager in high school (now I’m revealing my age).  At the time, Michael Jackson was dating Tatum O’Neal.  They were all on the cover of those Teen and Tiger Beat magazines.  And it was rumored that he wrote the song She’s Out Of My Life after Tatum broke up with him.  I don’t know whether the rumor is true or not, but in the song, he is literally crying as he sings by the end of the song. 

Anthony:  He was amazing.  You cannot talk about musical……

Theresa:  or Music in general…

Anthony:  Young people, old people, you cannot talk about music without talking about Michael Jackson. 

Theresa:  What’s your most favorite Michael Jackson video?

Anthony:  There are so many but if I had to pull it out, I would say Jam, the video he did with Michael Jordan.  (Laughs) You know you think about all the other videos and you go, “Oh my God I forgot all about this one…”  But yeah, it would be Jam, Thriller, and then I took a test on Facebook the other day and it said that my Michael Jackson song was Smooth Criminal. 

Theresa:  ....mine would be Remember The Time….

Anthony:  Oh…..Black Or White (laughs).  Yeah, there are so many.

Theresa:  Samuel L. Jackson comes on BET and he says, “I don’t care if it’s the short version or the long version, Thriller is the best video ever made.”

Anthony:  Ever.....I remember when we’d sit down and watch it.  We did it in school for the talent show. 


(L-R) Danielle King, Katlynn Smith, Joshua Bolden and Raiya Goodman as the Munchkins in THE WIZ Now Showing at the Ensemble Theatre through July 26th, 2009.  Photo by David Bray Photography.


Theresa:  He makes everything so much fun.  He’s one of a kind.  I don’t know why no other artist can do what he does.  But he’s just amazing.  We can talk about him all day.  But going back to The Wiz, did you have to audition for the role of the lion?

Anthony:  Yes I did.  Auditions were held a year ago, believe it or not.  They audition for the season rather than waiting for the time to get here. 

Theresa:  So you really wanted the role of the lion.

Anthony:  Oh yeah, always, always.  Growing up, I love Ted Ross.  I actually saw him do it on Broadway.  So I saw him and I was like, “Wow” I was awed by his presence.  Believe it or not, he’s the funny character.  That lion he’s always saying things out of the side of his mouth, and scaring people.  But he would turn right around and become the most innocent, sweetest person ever (laughs).  And I think that’s me….so…(laughs).

Theresa:  What would you like to say to the Houston theatre-going audience? 

Anthony:  This is a wonderful opportunity and to see you all in Oz!!!


Melanie Finley as Dorothy with Toto in THE WIZ Now Showing at the Ensemble Theatre through July 26th, 2009.  Photo by David Bray Photography.