Thursday night we saw the one time airing of The Wiz live on NBC. It was an anticipated event and boy did it deliver.
There was a star-studded cast, songs that got stuck in all our heads, great fashion choices, fantastic dance numbers, awesome props, moments that made us laugh and moments that made us cry. Put all those elements together and you have one of the best if not the best Broadway plays to hit live television.
Elijah Kelley as the scarecrow in search of a brain: many wondered how kelly would match up to the original scarecrow of the wiz and that’s the legend Michael Jackson himself. Obviously Kelly is no MJ (no one can fill those shoes) but in Kelly’s own right he was fantastic. He gave Scarecrow so much character. He had wit, sas, the ability to make you emotional, and let’s not forget awesome dance moves.
Ne-Yo as the Tinman in search of a heart: The Tinman has always been one of my personal favorites so I was eager to see what he would bring to the table, and let me say he did not disappoint. Even though he’s the 2nd person Dorothy meets in her journey to see the wizard I’ve always felt as if Tinman was her true defender and that feeling was no different. Ne-Yo inbodied the feeling of “hurt Dorothy and I will hurt you.” He was lovable, selfless, handsome and most of all he can sing! I mean his first musical number after he’s able to finally move was fantastic. Not only did he have the characteristics of a perfect “body guard” but he was hilarious as well, making him perfect for this role.
David Allen Grier as the Lion in search of some courage: I said it last night and I’ll say it again. David is quite possibly my favorite cowardly lion ever. Everything from his movements on stage, to the way he talked, to his facial expressions, everything was on point. You couldn’t help but love this guy. An interesting twist that this lion had was that he wasn’t really all that scared, just hesitant. I mean the way he lewered in those poppies and put them to sleep with a simple snarl was epic. He had just enough hesitation in his steps that made him not only brave but relatable.
Mary J. Blige as the wicked witch of the west: proved that you don’t need green face paint and a scratchy voice to be scary. The ura that Blige brought to this character was simply unmatched. Her strong presence was enough to make anyone quiver in their boots. Honestly MJB is in a league of her own. The back and forth verbiage between her and Dorothy was nothing short of gold and even though her roll was short lived she went out in a blaze of glory even when melting.
Amber Riley as the good witch of the North: Can you say knee slapper? Seriously Riley delivered some of the best one liners of the night one in particular is when she described getting Dorothy back home as”transporting a minor through state lines”. Her sass and overall likeable attitude made her the perfect choice for the part. She’s like that cool family member you always want to hang out with.
Uzo Aduba as Glenda: if you’re a fan of Uzo you know that anything she touches is pure gold. (Ironically enough her character was decked in gold) Uzo is best known for her roll as Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren on the hit show Orange is the new black, so it was pleasent to see her in a less unconventional role. Uzo has this infectious personality that she brings to every role that allows her to connect with the audience and really make you feel. How about that musical number? If you watch OITNB you were upset when Crazy Eyes wasn’t chosen to sing in the Christmas pageant. Well now we can say justice is served.
Queen Latifah as the great and powerful Oz: Now this was a role that caused a lot of controversy because the wizard has always been male and Latifah is obviously not that but honestly does it really matter? She really does live up to her name as Queen because she just has this intimidating factor about her that did wonders for the role of the Wizard. She showcases strength and power. Even when we find out she’s an average human who just wanted to make things better for the people of oz, she gave you a sense of hope and security. Latifah really is brilliant.
Now you may have noticed that one character has yet to be mentioned and that’s none other then Dorothy herself played by Shanice Williams. Usually in big productions like this only household names are used for the leading roll but every once in awhile casting directors will bring in some relatively unknown talent that leaves the audience with their jaws on the floor and Shanice was no exception. This girl is a hidden Gem and she really has something special about her. From the opening scene with Aunty Em to the closing number “Home” that served as a prayer to God, Shanice was a shining star. Whether she was bringing on the fierceness of Dorothy or the vulnerability she delivered. It’s safe to say that Shanice stole the hearts of millions last night. A star was born last night and we can bet this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Shanice. Get ready world Shanice Williams is taking over.
The whole cast was incredible even the ones not mentioned here. Anyone involved in this should give themselves a pat on the back. Everyone from stage lighting to costume designers, to makeup artist, to writers, to directors and of course the cast should give themselves a pat on the back because they created a true masterpiece, and it’s one we’ll never forget.