If you are from the generation who fell in love with the 1978 Broadway play The Wiz, a spin on the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz,” starring Stephanie Mills as Dorothy and an all African-American cast OR, like me, you fell in love with the film adaptation that came out that same year starring Diana Ross as Dorothy, but this time with big names like Michael Jackson and Nipsey Russell in the film, then you need to see NBC’s The Wiz Live!
As an avid fan of the film, I was very excited for the three-hour musical starring a stellar cast like: Uzo Aduba, Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, Common, David Alan Grier, Ne-Yo, Elijah Kelley and Shanice Williams as the lead character Dorothy Gal. Sorry Toto lovers, he made an appearance in the beginning, then back at the end, and that was about it. The premise pretty much remains the same: Dorothy finds herself in a tornado that lands her in the magical world of Oz as she meets magical creatures like The Scarecrow, The Tin Man, and The Cowardly Lion along the way on a journey to Emerald City to meet Oz and get home to Kansas.
Many of the songs made this cut which I was very happy about because the soundtrack is awesome and the slight renditions weren’t bad like I thought they would be. I specifically loved Amber Riley’s “He’s the Wizard” as Addapearle. Of course we know Amber Riley can sing from her Glee days, but those pipes did not get rusty a bit since the series finale of the show. The sets were miraculous, the dancing top-notch, and the singing amazing! The only thing that bothered me was the star, Shanice Williams. This was her breakout role and I’m sure she was nervous, but I found the supporting roles, even Common’s role as the Emerald City bouncer more captivating than hers. Her singing was good, but could use a bit more bass, a bit more soul, but she has potential.
Another slight bothersome aspect was the way The Wiz Live! attempted to appeal to a younger and new generation with lingo they could relate to. Some of the dialogue seemed forced and didn’t seem like it belonged. A shocker of the night was how great I thought Elijah Kelley was as The Scarecrow, a role Michael Jackson owned! Kelley belted out good vocals with “You Can’t Win” and you could tell how much Jackson influenced his performance. Mary J. Blige seemed like she showed up the day of for this and just went with it. No other performance was that good or bad worth mentioning.
Naturally social media, specifically Twitter, was buzzing with commentary about the live version so of course, excuse my language, there were some idiots who felt some type of way about The Wiz Live! being an all black cast. Umm hello that’s how the film and Broadway play was. No shocker, nothing new, but some Twitter users were calling the television event racist. I just can’t. I honestly think these people just want to get attention and trend their comments, but any who.
The Wiz Live! is a one of the live events you don’t want to miss, but if you missed it because this post is coming after the premiere, then you should check it out on demand.
Did you catch The Wiz Live!? Tell me what you thought in the comments below. Until then, watch my favorite performance of the night below.
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