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TV Review: The Wiz Live!
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The Wiz Live Header

The Wiz Live!
Directed by Kenny Leon and Matthew Diamond
Written by Harvey Fierstein
Based on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum
Starring Shanice Williams, Elijah Kelley, David Alan Grier, Ne-Yo, Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, Stephanie Mills, Uzo Aduba, Amber Riley, Common
NBC
Air Date: Thursday, December 3rd, 2015, 8:00pm

Thursday night, 11.5 million people tuned in to NBC’s 3rd live show, The Wiz Live!, making it the most sucessful one yet.

And I know why.

The story of a young lost girl who journeys through a magical land, just trying to find her way back home, is timeless. Set to the same funky music of the original 1975 Broadway musical, but also keeping one of the songs from the 1978 movie starring Michael Jackson and Diana Ross, this rendition was a delight from start to finish. It also trended during the entire broadcast, thanks to some serious live tweeting.

More below.

Most know the tale. Dorothy Gale lives in Kansas with her Aunt Em, Uncle Henry, and her dog Toto. She wants something more, and seems to be searching for something. A terrible storm takes her and her house to the magical land of Oz, right on top of a wicked witch. In order to get home, she must follow the yellow brick road using her sparkly “kicks” to see The Wiz. On her way, she finds the Scarecrow, who is in need of a brain, the Tin Man who needs a heart, and the Lion, who needs some courage. The Wiz says he will help them if they kill the Wicked Witch of the West. They succeed, and The Wiz gives almost everything to everyone, except Dorothy. Glinda, the good witch comes and tells Dorothy she had always had the power to return to Kansas, so off she goes. “There’s no place like home.”

Here’s some of why this was a magical show:

Shanice Williams (Dorothy Gale): As soon as I heard this newcomer sing her first note, I knew why they had cast her. Somehow, she evokes the same innocent optimism that Judy Garland did in the original movie. When she sang, and even when she spoke, her pronunciations and enunciations, held the same tone as Garland, which made this musical extra special to me.

Ne-Yo (The Tin Man): I have to admit. Every note that Ne-Yo ever hit before this show, was silky butter, and his turn as the rusted, heartless, man of metal went right along with this. His dance moves, emulating a “man made out of tin” might have been my favorite part of the entire thing.

Elijah Kelley (Scarecrow): I already knew Elijah Kelley could sing and dance, having watched Hairspray 37 times, but he really evoked young Michael Jackson in dance and in song. It must be really difficult to dance gracefully, while trying to convey clumsiness, but he managed to pull it off very well. This man is about to blow up.

David Alan Grier (The Cowardly Lion): The Broadway veteran had the chops and the comedy all cowardly lions need. I don’t know why I was surprised he was so good. You need to be talented in everything to be good in a variety show of the caliber of In Living Color.

Uzo Aduba (Glinda): She was the biggest shocker. I didn’t know she was an opera singer, and I had no idea she had those pipes or that range! I went into this thinking there’s no way she can pull this off, having watched OITNB, and now, I don’t know how that casting director could have ever seen through this beautiful singer, and know she was right for “Crazy Eyes.”

Queen Latifah (The Wiz): The Queen! She went from boy to girl with graceful ease. I loved her in Hairspray as well, and she did not let me down.

There was so much more! Mary J Blige, Amber Riley, and Stephanie Mills (original Dorothy) gave fantastic performances. The costumes and makeup were bright and detailed. The sets, the Cirque de Soleil dancers, the choreography… I can’t compliment this production enough.

The only thing I can complain about with this production is the commercial breaks. Luckily, DVR has fast forward. My only question is…

When is this coming to Broadway?

The Wiz Live! will air again on Saturday, December 19th at 8:00pm ET.

Some of my tweets:

NBC’s ABOUT THE SHOW:

NBC embarks on its latest musical holiday tradition: a 3-hour LIVE event production of the groundbreaking Broadway show that brought Oz to life in a funky sing-along journey down the yellow brick road.

Winner of 7 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, the original massive Broadway hit spawned a feature film starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. Now, a Tony-winning creative team, the imaginative Cirque du Soleil Theatrical and a diverse cast of showstoppers create an eye-popping new take unlike anything ever seen.

From Executive Producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron comes an adventure of stunning spectacle and toe-tapping music.

Videos

The Wiz Live! – He’s The Wiz (Highlight)


Addaperle (Amber Riley) and the Munchkins tell Dorothy (Shanice Williams) all about the one person who can do it all – The Wiz! – in this song from NBC’s The Wiz Live!

The Wiz Live! – Ease on Down the Road (Highlight)


Dorothy (Shanice Williams), Scarecrow (Elijah Kelley), Tin Man (Ne-Yo) and the Cowardly Lion (David Alan Grier) head on down the yellow brick road to Oz with this song from NBC’s The Wiz Live!

The Wiz Live! – So You Wanted to Meet the Wizard (Highlight)


The Wiz (Queen Latifah) introduces herself to Dorothy (Shanice Williams), Scarecrow (Elijah Kelley), Tin Man (Ne-Yo) and the Cowardly Lion (David Alan Grier) in this song from NBC’s The Wiz Live!

The Wiz Live! – No Bad News (Highlight)


Wicked Witch of the West Evillene (Mary J. Blige) tells her people what they better not bring her in this song from NBC’s The Wiz Live!

The Wiz Live! – Brand New Day (Highlight)


The Winkies celebrate their liberation from Wicked Witch of the West Evillene with Dorothy (Shanice Williams) and her friends in this song from NBC’s The Wiz Live!

The Wiz Live! – Home from The Wiz Live! (Highlight)


Dorothy (Shanice Williams) says goodbye to all her friends in Oz, then clicks her heels three times in this song from The Wiz Live!

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