‘The Wiz’ to premiere as next live musical

By: Zenab Saeed ~Staff Writer~

Another live musical is in the works at NBC: on March 30, the network announced plans for “The Wiz” to be its next live musical performance program. “The Wiz” will be NBC’s third live musical, following “The Sound of Music” featuring Carrie Underwood in 2013 and “Peter Pan” with Allison Williams in 2014. This decision followed NBC’s announcement in January at the Television Critics Association panel.

The network was choosing between either “The Wiz,” “A Few Good Men” or “The Music Man” for its next live musical event. The live performance will be produced in conjunction with Cirque du Soleil, which will also bring the show back to Broadway for a revival in the 2016-17 season. “The Wiz,” based on the classic tale of Dorothy and her adventures with the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion in “The Wizard of Oz,” features an African-American context and cast.

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The original cast of the musical “The Wiz” first performed on Broadway in 1975 and earned seven Tony Awards

The musical made its debut in 1975 on Broadway, where it featured Stephanie Mills as the lead character Dorothy and earned seven of the eight Tony Awards for which it was nominated, including Best Musical, Best Original Score and Best Choreography. In 1978, “The Wiz” was taken to the silver screen under the direction of Motown Productions and Universal Pictures. Though Mills was set to revive her role as Dorothy in the film version, singer and actress Diana Ross agreed to finance the production if she could have the role instead.

The film, directed by Sidney Lumet, featured Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow, Nipsey Russel as the Tin Man, Ted Ross as the Cowardly Lion, Richard Pryor as the Wizard and Lena Horne as Glinda alongside Ross. Though the film was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Art Direction and Best Original Music Score, it proved to be both a critical and commercial failure as it underperformed at the box office.

NBC’s “The Wiz” will be produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, both of whom also produced NBC’s live musicals “The Sound of Music” and “Peter Pan.” Kenny Lion, a Tony Awardwinning director, will direct both the televised live performance and the musical’s Broadway revival. Although the cast for the live musical event has not yet been announced, the performance is scheduled to air on this coming Dec. 3.