Maya Bowles, a proud Atlanta native, made a birthday wish this year when she saw that an audition notice for one of her favorite musicals had been posted on her special day. Not long after blowing out those candles, that wish came true. 

“I was offered the job to be in the ensemble of The Wiz in March,” she said, gleaming. “We had a workshop in June and got straight to it in August, and we’re now on tour.”

Bowles made her Broadway debut in 2021 as a cast member of Moulin Rouge! The Musical and now she is thrilled to be part of the Wiz legacy in the new, reimagined production as it gets set to make its Broadway bow next spring. She’s even more excited that her hometown of Atlanta will be among the first to see the updated production, as it plays here at the Fox Theatre through Nov. 19.

The Wiz premiered on Broadway in 1975 to much acclaim, taking home seven Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Original Score. The groundbreaking twist on The Wizard of Oz includes an iconic score packed with soul, gospel, rock, and ’70s funk to its stirring tale of Dorothy’s journey to find her place in a contemporary world.

What’s New in Oz

Under the direction of Schele Williams, with JaQuel Knight serving as choreographer, the pre-Broadway revival run features hits such as “Ease on Down the Road,” “Home,” and “Everybody Rejoice,” with new musical moments from Joseph Joubert (orchestrations), Allen René Louis (vocal arrangements) and an Emerald Ballet composed by Timothy Graphenreed.

Bowles’ relationship to the musical goes back to elementary school when her best friend gave her a copy of the movie version for Bowles’ birthday. 

“It was also my mom’s absolute favorite show ever, I think she wanted to be [original star] Stephanie Mills her entire life,” Bowles says. “So, she was very connected to the show, and once I had the movie [starring Diana Ross], I found my own special connection.”

Celebration of Black Excellence

As a member of the ensemble, Bowles gets to play a plethora of characters, embodying different people—and things—throughout Oz. Those include playing a poppy in the poppy field, a townsperson in the land, a backup singer for the Witch and one of Emerald City’s humans.

“It’s a wide range of characters and people throughout, so it’s been really great,” she says. “The celebration of Black excellence is so important to witness in-person and I’m looking forward to making connections with the audience.” 

Growing up in Atlanta, Bowles knew at an early age that she wanted to perform, starting dance classes at the age of 4. In middle school, she discovered her passion for musical theatre, and knew that she wanted it to be more than a hobby, but a career.

She took dance classes at the Dance Factory in Powder Springs, transitioned to Studio Atlanta Dance in Smyrna, and worked her way to Dance Canvas in Atlanta. Bowles has also worked with many theatres throughout Atlanta and Marietta.  

“I went to a performing arts magnet school in Atlanta, Pebblebrook High School, which houses the Cobb County Center for Excellence in the Performing Arts, and that’s where I got the bulk of my training and it prepped me for life beyond,” she says. “I knew this was something where I could spend my life creating my path performing, so I went to college to major in dance with a minor in musical theatre at Point Park University.”

Friends and Family at the Fox

And of course, being interested in the arts, Bowles visited the Fox Theatre numerous times throughout her life, starting with Dreamgirls when she was in the fifth grade.

“I was so close that I saw that the actors could see me and make a connection with me in their eyes, so now to be able to perform at the Fox, it’s going to be a huge full-circle moment for me,” Bowles says. “It’s going to be a whirlwind and really emotional. I’m expecting so many friends and family coming out, and we’re definitely not there long enough for everyone!”

She already has a laundry list of activities that she plans to bring her castmates during the off-times, including Mary Mac’s Tea Room, which she shares has the best soul food, and just visit the community that made her want to perform.

“I’m also going to teach some master classes at my high school and at the dance programs and theatre programs I worked with, “Bowles says. “I’m really excited to do that as well. It’s nice to be home.”

Photo: A scene from The Wiz, featuring Melody Betts as Evillene performing “Don’t Nobody Bring Me No Bad News.” Photo by Jeremy Daniel.