NBC’s presentation of The Wiz Live! was a hit.
The acting was good, the singing was great, and the costumes were eye-catching.
Not to mention all the natural hair styles were full of self-affirming awesomeness for little girls with ebony clouds of hair on their heads.
The production took aspects from the film The Wizard of Oz and the Broadway production and film The Wiz and also added its own little twists.
We couldn’t help but crack a smile when he heard words like “squad,” “werk” and “shade” during the performance. At one point, the Tin Man hit a quick dab during a song.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the characters and how they fared:
Shanice Williams (Dorothy)
Eighteen-year-old phenom Shanice Williams rocked it out as Dorothy. Williams’ Dorothy had a roller set and really cute red wedge sneakers. This was a Dorothy with an around-the-way girl look and not at all a waif or damsel in distress. Everyone was waiting to see how she would handle “Home,” the song that Stephanie Mills slaughtered, murdered and killed dead in the Broadway musical. Williams held her own vocally on all of the songs, but there’s just nothing like Mills singing “Home.”
Stephanie Mills (Auntie Em)
Stephanie Mills (who played Dorothy in the original Broadway play in 1978), had the honor of singing the first song of the production, and her vocals were flawless. The interaction between Auntie Em and Dorothy was realistic and warm. If at all possible, it would have been good to have her on more than just one song.
Amber Riley (Addapearle)
Glee actor Amber Riley once again showed America how talented she is with vocals. Resplendent in all blue, Riley’s Addapearle was irreverent, funny and more than a bit charming.
Elijah Kelley (Scarecrow)
Michael Jackson played the role of Scarecrow in the movie version of The Wiz, so that’s a good amount of pressure for Kelley in the NBC production. The television star showed off his triple threat status with athletic dance moves and believable acting, and he sang his little heart out. Kelley did “You Can’t Win” justice. Also, the crows were giving Morris Day vibes.
The two best stand-out singing performances came from Ne-Yo. In the other iterations of The Wiz, the Scarecrow was the one to watch, but Ne-Yo made the Tin-Man the scene-stealer. He SANG “What I Would Do If I Could Feel” like a Grammy was waiting in the wings with his name on it.
David Alan Grier (The Cowardly Lion)
David Alan Grier has pipes! The funny man belted out a tune or two and did a great job. He was so heavy into his character (and make-up) that it would have been nearly impossible to recognize him by voice or sight. His interaction with the sexy poppies was noteworthy. Of course, Grier let out his humorous side with some perfectly timed one-liners, and his mane of locs was a nice touch. Grier had a clear command of the ‘stage.’
Common (The Bouncer)
Rapper and actor Common had a small but notable role as the bouncer guarding the Wiz and the fabulous (in every way) Emerald City. He kind of looked like he was reading off of a cue card, but his costume was great.
Queen Latifah (The Wiz)
Having the Wiz as a woman was one of the twists of the NBC production. Great casting job with Queen L-A-T-I-F-A-H in command as the “all-knowing” Wiz. She looked great in her make-up and costume. The dancers protecting her Emerald City were werking for the gawds as they vogued and snapped for the kids. They had a pretty fierce set.
Of course, the Wiz was outted as a fraud and as a woman. There was a great line by Dorothy when her male companions seemed to scoff at the notion of the Wiz being a woman. “What’s wrong with being a woman?” Not a thing. The costuming and make-up were great throughout the production, except for the Wiz’s transformation back to a regular person. The Wiz looked like an elementary school principal who shopped at Dress Barn. That’s so far from the flash and personality of the Wiz persona. I think the person behind the Wiz would have still had some kind of notable style.
Mary J. Blige (Evillene)
Everyone was worried about Mary. That trailer with her screaming about “wat-ah” in the soul deep New York accent left some folks wondering if she would ruin The Wiz. But she did a pretty good job. She looked amazing. No Wicked Witch of the West has ever looked that good, and she did solid rendition of “No Bad News.” We didn’t get any Mary bop, but she two-stepped a bit.
Uzo Aduba (Glinda the Good Witch)
Remember when there were rumors that Beyoncé was going to play Glinda the Good Witch? Glad that didn’t happen. Bey is great, but to have a gorgeous, dark complexioned woman with a braided crown as the Good Witch was an inspired choice. Aduba literally glowed in her gold and yellow gown and, like her cast mates, she did her role justice. Lena Horne would be proud.
The Wiz Live! was a well-executed production with a good cast, strong vocal performances and powerful aesthetics.