NBC’s The Wiz Live! scored some impressive ratings Thursday night, snagging an estimated 11.5 million viewers for it’s debut. While The Wiz outperformed last year’s dismal Peter Pan Live!, it still didn’t reach the epic ratings of NBC’s inaugural live musical experiment The Sound of Music Live! It did, however, gain something that the two previous musicals struggled to get – predominantly positive reviews.
Many people were skeptical that NBC would be able to pull off a live musical that would be as pleasant to home viewers as the in person experience. Others thought NBC’s choice of The Wiz was an odd one considering the catalog of Broadway musicals that had proven to be more successful. But, according to critics, The Wiz Live! proved to be not only the best choice, but the best production so far.
Brian Lowry with Variety said, “The Wiz ranks as the most satisfying of NBC’s three efforts – an accomplishment, since it’s hardly on a par with The Sound of Music on the honor roll of classic musicals.” Lowry commended the performance of The Wiz‘s Dorothy played by the a 19-year-old unknown actress by the name of Shanice Williams. Many wondered if Williams would be able to hold her own in playing such an iconic role made famous by Diana Ross’ portrayal in The Wiz movie of 1978. From the moment Williams opened her mouth, it was clear she could.
For New York Times critic Wesley Morris, it was David Alan Grier as The Wiz‘s Cowardly Lion who stole the show. “Mr. Grier appeared to be on the verge of tears (during Shanice Williams’ performance of “Be a Lion”). When his eyes locked with his co-stars, the intensity actually reached your living room. He seemed to understand the power of the space and the camera, and casually commanded them.”
And while some questioned the casting choice of Queen Latifah as ‘The Wiz’ rather than a male actor, Mary Kennedy with ABC News called her performance “strong,” stating that the actress/singer brought the role of ‘The Wiz’ “real stage presence.”
But perhaps the biggest compliments came from fellow actors and actresses via Twitter. Broadway superstar Kristin Chenoweth singled out performances by Common and Amber Riley among others of The Wiz cast, as well as expressed her love for the show as a whole:
Actress and singer Anna Kendrick, who is known on the Twittersphere for her sarcastic and pithy sense of humor, couldn’t even bring herself to make fun of anything throughout The Wiz performances:
That kicked ass. I don’t even know how to be snarky about this. #TheWizLive
— Anna Kendrick (@AnnaKendrick47) December 4, 2015
And Modern Family‘s Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who seemingly developed a new infatuation with NeYo, summed up for everyone the specialness of The Wiz‘s talent onscreen:
Everyone in #TheWizLive does everything better than us. This is one mega talented cast.
— Jesse Tyler Ferguson (@jessetyler) December 4, 2015
If you’re reading this and you’re having viewer’s remorse about missing The Wiz Live!, the good news is that NBC will be re-airing an encore performance of the show. Mark it on your calendar. Set your DVR. You can ease on down the road and catch The Wiz Live! again on Saturday December 19 on NBC at 8 p.m. EST.
Or, for those impatient musical fans, NBC was kind enough to The Wiz Live! online. Click your heels together and catch it here.
[Photo via The Wiz Live! Official Facebook]