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The Wiz Live! is a live-television adaptation of the Broadway show by NBC. It aired on December 3rd, 2015. The show was co-produced with Cirque du Soleil. Since the original show began touring in 1975, this version is the 40th anniversary edition of the original show.
The story begins in Kansas, on Aunt Em's farm. Two of her farm helpers (Ne-Yo, Elijah Kelley) are fixing an old fence, while the other (David Alan Grier) gets chased by Toto. Aunt Em's niece, Dorothy Gale (Shanice Williams), chases after Toto. The farm help soon discover about Dorothy's repeated attempt to run away to her birthplace in Omaha, Nebraska, but before anything else could be said, Aunt Em (Stephanie Mills) follows after her. Dorothy tells Aunt Em that she wants to return back to her old home, but Aunt Em reminds Dorothy that she can't, because her old apartment was vacated after the death of her parents. Aunt Em tells Dorothy it's better staying with her then being back in Omaha (The Feeling We Once Had). Aunt Em warns Dorothy that a storm is approaching close, but it's too late for Dorothy. She and the farmhouse get caught in the storm (The Tornado).
Dorothy finally lands in Munchkinland. The Munchkins surround Dorothy, informing her that her house flattened Evamene the Wicked Witch of the East. They celebrate and rejoice of the death of the witch, which gets the attention of Addapearle the Good Witch of the North (Amber Riley), who was just passing through until she was almost hit by the house. She thanks Dorothy, but Dorothy is still confused, and still wanting to go home, to Omaha. Addapearle and the Munchkins tell her to go ask The Wizard for help (He's The Wizard). Addapearle gives Dorothy Evamene's Silver Shoes and a kiss on the forehead for protection. Addapearle soon disappears, and the Munchkins tell Dorothy to follow the Yellow Brick Road to get to the Wiz's home in the Emerald City. They also warn her to look out for Winged Warriors, Kalidahs, Poppies, and Evamene's vengeful sister, Evillene the Wicked Witch of the West. As Dorothy leaves Munchkinland, she thinks about all the strange things she could encounter in the Land of Oz (Soon As I Get Home).
Dorothy continues her journey until she comes across a talking Scarecrow (Elijah Kelley), who asks Dorothy if she has any money in order to buy him some brains. The crows surrounding the Scarecrow begin to intrude in the conversation, and begin to bully him (You Can't Win). Dorothy scares them off and lets him off his pole. She invites him to see the Wiz in order to get a brain (Ease On Down The Road Part 1). The duo eventually across a junkyard, where they find the Tinman (Ne-Yo), rusted up from a rainstorm. He asks for oil so he can move (Slide Some Oil To Me). Once he is oiled up and lubricated, Dorothy gets curious and asks why he is made of tin. He recalls that he was once a normal man who was in love with a woman named Bertha. But Evamene also had a crush on him. When Evamene saw him and Bertha kissing in the forest, she furiously turned him metal, causing him to literally lose his heart. Dorothy, feeling sorry, invites him along to ask the Wiz for a heart. He refuses at first, thinking Evamene is still watching him. Dorothy soon tells him that the Witch is dead, and she is responsible for it. He gratefully joins her and the Scarecrow. (Ease On Down The Road Part 2) They soon wander into the forest where they run into the Cowardly Lion (David Alan Grier). He appears big and ferocious until Dorothy punches him (Mean Ole Lion). He then feels embarrassed and sad. Dorothy and her friends begin to feel sorry for the poor creature, so they invite him along to get some courage. (Ease On Down The Road Part 3)
The travelers all soon get tired and get off track of the road. The Scarecrow decides they all should each go in different directions to find the road. But before Dorothy could find the road, she hears a familiar voice. It was the voice and image of her deceased mother wanting the Silver Shoes. Dorothy believes this is her actual mother and obeys. Before she gives her mother the Shoes, the Tinman runs towards Dorothy, telling Dorothy it's not her mother, but a Kalidah after the Shoes. Soon an entire group of Kalidahs attack Dorothy, Scarecrow, and Tinman, who fight off the creatures while the Lion hides. Once they fight all the Kalidahs off, Dorothy thanks her friends, but before Dorothy thanks the Lion, the Tinman, now angered, starts taunting him for his cowardice. Dorothy begins to cheer the Lion up (Be a Lion).
All happy again, the four soon rediscover the path to the Emerald City. As they pass through poppy fields, the Poppy Girls try and seduce them all. The Scarecrow and Tinman nearly fall into their trap seeing the beautiful ladies. Knowing how truly dangerous they are, The Lion tells everyone to hide and stay away while he handles the Poppy Girls. After he dances with the ladies, he ties them all up. The Lion and his friends proceed to walk to the Emerald City gate. The Bouncer (Common) refuses to let through until Dorothy shows the Silver Shoes, and explains that she received them from Addaperle after killing Evamene. After Dorothy and her friends ask the citizens where the Wiz is, the citizens soon see Dorothy's Shoes, and point her towards the Wiz.
Dorothy and her friends enter the room of the Wiz (Queen Latifah), where he greets them (So You Wanted To Meet The Wizard). He asks them what they want from him. The Wiz first hears the requests from Lion, Scarecrow, and Dorothy. When Dorothy tells the Wiz about her plans to leave her Aunt Em's farm for Omaha, the Wiz tells her that she can't go home until she decides which of those two places is her true home. The Tinman finally asks for a heart, and after the Wiz asks him why, the Tinman tells him (What Would I Do If I Could Feel). The Wiz agrees to grant their wishes, on one condition. They must kill Evillene, who is planning to conquer all of Oz. Before they could refuse the offer, the Wizard vanishes. The Lion, Tinman and Scarecrow refuse to go, but Dorothy encourages them (We Got It).
In the Winkie Factory, the head Winkie informs one of the workers that Evillene now owns the factory. Evillene (Mary J. Blige) enters and asks for the news after expressing her hatred for all the water leaking everywhere (Don't Nobody Bring Me Bad News). After hearing about Dorothy coming to kill her, she sends her Winged Warriors out to capture the girl and her friends. Once captured, Dorothy and the Lion are put to work. Meanwhile, Evillene tries to get the Silver Shoes from Dorothy. Dorothy refuses, which angers the witch. She calls in her dinner, prompting the Winkies bring out the Scarecrow and Tinman, and tie up the Lion. The Witch threatens to make a fire with the Scarecrow, turn the Tinman into a cooking pot, and cut and boil the Lion into Forest Lion Stew. This gets Dorothy so angry that she throws a bucket of water on the Witch. Evillene screams in fear as she soon melts away. The Winkies, along with Dorothy and her friends, rejoice in the death of the Witch (A Brand New Day).
Dorothy and her friends return to the Emerald City. The Bouncer won't let them in this time, saying the Wiz banned them from entering ever again. So the Scarecrow tricks the Bouncer, allowing him and the others to sneak inside the Wiz's room. While Dorothy speaks with the Wiz through his giant robot head, the Lion discovers the true person behind the Wiz. The Wiz turns out to be a fake, and not even a man, but a woman. She tells them her story, that she was once a magician's assistant from Omaha. By night they'd perform magic, but during the day they would give rides in a hot air balloon. She loved her job, but hated her boss. So in order to teach him a lesson, she left in the balloon without him one day, planning to land back down after he learned not to mistreat her. However, she got caught in a storm, and before she knew it, she was in Oz. When the Emerald City citizens saw her, they thought she was a wizard coming to save them from the Wicked Witches. Back in the present, the Wiz tells Dorothy's friends they had what they wanted all along. Then the Scarecrow asks the Wiz if she could take Dorothy home in her balloon. The Wiz refuses at first, but after Dorothy persuades her to abandon her life of deception and solitude, she offers to bring Dorothy back to Omaha. Dorothy quickly accepts.
Before the Wiz leaves for Omaha, she says goodbye to the citizens (Y'all Got It). Dorothy soon realizes that she doesn't want to go to Omaha, but back to Kansas with Aunt Em, and allows the Wiz to leave without her. Addapearle appears once more and realizes Dorothy has learned her lesson. Dorothy, now feeling exhausted, wishes to go home, so Addapearle calls in her sister Glinda, the Good Witch of the South (Uzo Aduba). Glinda greets Dorothy, telling her that she's been watching her the whole time she was in Oz. Glinda reveals to Dorothy that she always had the power to go home, and advises the girl to click her heels three times and think of home (Believe in Yourself). After the two Witches and the citizens leave, Dorothy says goodbye to her new friends, then thinks of her home in Kansas (Home). Dorothy clicks her heels, and before she knows it, Toto runs into her arms, and Aunt Em kisses her to welcome her back home.
NBC Press Release
NBC embarks on its latest musical holiday tradition with a live television production of the groundbreaking Broadway show that brought the vivid world of Oz to a new generation in a fresh, funky sing-along journey down the yellow brick road.
Winner of seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical, the original show was a massive hit on Broadway and even spawned a feature film starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson and Richard Pryor . Now, a Tony-winning creative team, the hugely imaginative Cirque du Soleil Theatrical, and a diverse cast of showstopping performers will come together to create an eye-popping new take unlike anything seen before.
The Wiz Live! earned 11.5 million viewers the night of its premiere, making it the network's second-highest rated musical of the 2010s thus far (behind The Sound of Music Live!, which 18 million viewers tuned in to during its premiere). It also earned the best critical reception, with a 91% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 73 on Metacritic. As a testament to The Wiz's success, NBC enlisted director Kenny Leon and teleplay author Harvey Firestein to helm the following year's musical, Hairspray Live! The renewed interest in Oz also prompted the network to allow the TV show Emerald City to resume production.
Soundtrack and Home Video
The Wiz Live! soundtrack became available to download on December 11, and the CD came out on December 18. In addition to the music, it also includes a booklet providing lists of cast and crew members, a summary of the musical, and lyrics to the songs.
Universal released The Wiz Live! on Digital HD on December 4, and on DVD on December 22. The DVD corrects some of the "goofs" from the original broadcast (eg, NBC showed Dorothy clicking her heels two times, while the DVD shows three clicks.), and also includes the documentary The Making of The Wiz Live!, which aired eight days before the event.
- Supervising Producer: Javier Winnik
- Producer: Donna Suchan Smeland
- Lighting Designer: Allen Branton
- Costume Designer: Paul Tazewell
- Production Designer: Derek McLane
- Music Producer: Harvey Mason, Jr.
- Music Director and Co-Producer: Stephen Oremus'
- Choreography: Fatima Robinson
- Executive Producers: Craig Zadan, Neil Meron
- Teleplay: Harvey Fierstein
- Live Television Director: Matthew Diamond
- Director: Kenny Leon
- Queen Latifah as The Wiz
- Mary J. Blige as Evillene
- David Alan Grier as the Cowardly Lion
- Ne-Yo as the Tin Man
- Elijah Kelley as the Scarecrow
- Uzo Aduba as Glinda
- Amber Riley as Addapearle
- Common as the Bouncer
- Stephanie Mills as Aunt Em
- Shanice Williams as Dorothy Gale
- The Feeling We Once Had
- The Tornado
- He's The Wizard
- Soon As I Get Home
- You Can't Win
- Ease on Down the Road
- Slide Some Oil To Me
- Mean Ole' Lion
- Be A Lion
- So You Wanted to Meet The Wizard
- What Would I Do if I could Feel
- We Got It
- Don't Nobody Bring Me No Bad News
- A Brand New Day
- Y'all Got It
- Believe in Yourself
For more info click The Wiz Live! Soundtrack
NAACP Image Awards
- Outstanding Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special
- Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special: David Alan Grier
Black Reel Awards
- Outstanding Television Documentary or Special
- Outstanding Actress, TV Movie or Limited Series: Shanice Williams (lost to Queen Latifah for Bessie)
- Outstanding Supporting Actor, TV Movie or Limited Series: David Alan Grier (lost to Bokeem Woodbine for Fargo)
- Outstanding Supporting Actress, TV Movie or Limited Series: Amber Riley (lost to Regina King for American Crime)
- Outstanding Supporting Actress, TV Movie or Limited Series: Mary J. Blige (lost to Regina King for American Crime)
Critics Choice Television Awards
- Best Movie Made For Television or Limited Series (lost to Fargo)
- Best Actress in a Movie Made for Television or Limited Series: Shanice Williams (lost to Kirsten Dunst for Fargo)
- Best Supporting Actor in a Movie Made for Television or Limited Series: Ne-Yo (lost to Jesse Plemons for Fargo)
- Best Supporting Actor in a Movie Made for Television or Limited Series: David Alan Grier (lost to Jesse Plemons for Fargo)
- Best Supporting Actress in a Movie Made for Television or Limited Series: Mary J. Blige (lost to Jean Smart for Fargo)
Directors Guild of America
- Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Movies for Television and Mini-Series: Kenny Leon and Matthew Diamond (lost to Dee Rees for Bessie)
- Outstanding Costumes For A Variety, Nonfiction Or Reality Program
- Outstanding Production Design For A Variety, Nonfiction, Event Or Award Special (lost to Grease Live!)
- Outstanding Hairstyling For A Multi-Camera Series Or Special (lost to an SNL episode hosted by Fred Armisen)
- Outstanding Lighting Design/Lighting Direction For A Variety Special (lost to Grease Live!)
- Outstanding Makeup For A Multi-Camera Series Or Special (Non-Prosthetic) (lost to the Key and Peele episode "Y'all Ready For This?")
- Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video Control For A Limited Series, Movie Or Special (lost to Grease Live!)
- This is NBC's 2nd Oz project after the cancelled and then reordered Emerald City (TV series). It is likely that this was either picked up as a replacement or to incite a renewed interest in Oz in which the series was pitched again.
- Before the confirmation, it was revealed that NBC also had the choice doing The Music Man or A Few Good Men as its annual live winter musical for 2015 (Previous: Peter Pan Live! in 2014 and The Sound of Music Live! in 2013).
- The show generated some controversy among certain white groups who accused NBC of being prejudiced by only casting African-Americans. Fans of The Wiz retorted by pointing out that it previously had an all-African-American cast both on Broadway and in its movie adaptation , and by reminding them that MGM already made an all-white version of The Wizard of Oz. After The Wiz Live! aired, Saturday Night Live addressed this controversy with a sketch in which the Wiz characters (portrayed by Sasheer Zamata, Michael Che, Jay Pharoah, Kenan Thompson, and Leslie Jones) experience a culture clash with the Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz (Ryan Gosling).
- Stephanie Mills played as Dorothy in the original Broadway production.
- David Alan Grier and Queen Latifah played Uncle Henry and Aunt Em respectfully in the The Muppets' Wizard of Oz
- This is the first official Oz production with the Wizard of Oz portrayed by a female actress.
- Uncle Henry is not in this production.
- David Alan Grier once played the Wiz in La Jolla's version of the production.
- Queen Latifah and Elijah Kelley played alongside each other in the 2007 film adaption of Hairspray as Seaweed and Motormouth Maybelle.
- Ne-Yo and Elijah Kelley worked in the film Red Tails together.
- Queen Latifah and Common played alongside each other in the film Just Wright.
- Kenny Leon previously directed Queen Latifah in Lifetime's African-American version of Steel Magnolias.
- The Wiz was originally planned to be televised in 1999 starring Anika Noni Rose as Dorothy, but it never aired.
- Paul Tazewell won an Emmy for Outstanding Costumes For A Variety, Nonfiction Or Reality Program, for The Wiz, the same year that he won a Tony for Best Costume Design of a Musical, for Hamilton.
- There were various Wizard of Oz referenences, including the three farm helps, The Grier's lion roar sounds similar the Bert Lahr's roar, and Ne-Yo's tinman says the line " I know I got a heart, 'cause just thinking aout Dorothy leaving has got it breaking" just like what Jack Haley's Tinman said while saying goodbye ot Dorothy.