First came The Sound of Music Live with Carrie Underwood, followed by Peter Pan Live with Christopher Walken and Allison Williams. And now, will the third time be the ultimate charm as NBC airs The Wiz Live, combining the talents of superstars such as Queen Latifah and Mary J. Blige with a modern-day twist on the timeless tale of the Wizard of Oz?
That’s what the network hopes as it stages a three-hour musical production, taking its cues and adding some modern-day touches to The Wiz Broadway show that earned Tony Awards and resulted in a movie with Michael Jackson and Diana Ross, reported Today.
Supersizing The Wiz Live for television are the combined efforts of Cirque du Soleil, Queen Latifah as the Wiz, Mary J. Blige as Evillene, David Alan Grier as the Cowardly Lion, and Ne-Yo as Tin Man. Others starring in the TV version are Elijah Kelley as the Scarecrow, Amber Riley as the Good Witch of the North, Stephanie Mills as Auntie Em, Uzo Aduba as Glinda the Good, Common as the Gatekeeper, and Shanice Williams as Dorothy herself.
The Wiz Live airs December 3, and even those who saw the original Broadway production, as well as the film, are in for some surprises. A new song unites Dorothy, Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow, the result of a collaboration by Ne-Yo and Elijah Kelley entitled “We Got It.”
And Toto Too?
One of the most memorable stars of The Wizard of Oz wasn’t human. So how are producers handling the immortal role of doggy Toto? Meet a rescue dog and his brother, who are tasked with the trick of wagging their tails to tell the tale of Toto too. You might think that a 10-year-old dog isn’t up to the challenge, but Cairn terrier Scooter is one lucky dog.
Scooter and his brother were discovered by Cairn Rescue USA, which is based in Chicago. Wizard dog trainer Bill Berloni put up his paws to take on the intricacies involved in training the little dogs to travel the yellow-brick road. And don’t worry about how they were treated because Scooter had access to a trailer with a temperature controlled for his health.
Can Wizard Of Oz Be A Woman? Queen Latifah Takes Challenge
Can only a man portray the power of the Wizard of Oz? With actors ranging from Richard Pryor, who played the Wiz in the movie, to Frank Morgan, who charmed as the original wizard in the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz, that’s the traditional philosophy.
But in the new revamped TV production, it ain’t necessarily so. Kenny Leon helms the production as director, and he contends that gender shouldn’t be a factor when determining who is the great and powerful Wiz.
“I wasn’t thinking about gender,” explained Leon. “I thought the Wiz can be anything, anyone and the first name out of my mouth was Queen Latifah. There was no other name.”
Visually Disabled First
For the first time, a live entertainment production will be accessible to visually disabled individuals, reported Deadline.
Credit goes to Comcast, which plans to provide a national video description pilot program when The Wiz Live airs on December 3. That means that when NBC broadcasts the musical, a narrative track will provide visually disabled people with information such as costumes and the expressions of the actors.
NBC debuts The Wiz Live on Thursday, December 3 at 8 p.m. ET, and the network has chosen the same date as the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
“Earlier this year, I attended a theater production of The Wiz and, without description, found it very difficult to follow the characters and action of the play,” revealed Carl Augusto, CEO of the American Foundation for the Blind. “This nationally described television broadcast will not only be a godsend to people with vision loss, but also to those who describe action to people with vision loss, and the general public, who will learn about the importance of audio description.”
[Image via NBC/The Wiz Live]