The Wiz Live!

The Wiz Live!, 2015

The Wiz Live!, 2015

In an awkward introduction, Queen Latifah announced The Wiz Live! was really, truly starting, and that “anything can happen.” Being the pessimistic, NBC live musical hate-watcher I’ve become, I took this as a promise of disaster. It started that way. The set, at first, was underwhelming and Dorothy (Shanice Williams, who admittedly made me tear up during her Today interview) was wearing a horrible plaid combination that made me question what decade we were in, but don’t worry – the script reminded us we were trying very hard in 2015.  Addapearle (Amber Riley) invited Dorothy out for sushi, Evillene (Mary J. Blige) mentioned “casting shade,” and in a low point, Dorothy shouted “Y’all was supposed to be my squad!” More than this, Live! suffered since it didn’t make you fall in love with Dorothy. The only character development was she 1. has dead parents, 2. fights with her Aunt Em, and 3. has run away several times. It makes the whole “click your heels three times” plot far less interesting.

But the performances were refreshingly pleasant, and the set and dancers were far better than those from Sound of Music Live! and Peter Pan Live!. Tin-Man (Ne-Yo, who I haven’t seen since he was so sick of love songs) provided the feels I missed from the original. And that’s the best thing about this production– it’s seemed to show lots of people a less-popular musical. It had lava lamp munchkins and tornado dancers dressed like 2009 VMA Lady Gaga and a yellow brick road my roommate deemed “burnt bacon.” Scarecrow (Elijah Kelley) had chevron fabric around his ankles, Toto went MIA, and the hashtags scrolling across the bottom of the screen included “#IHateWater.” But then there was that fabulous poppies dance sequence, Queen Latifah as The Wiz as a Covergirl ad, and Uzo Aduba bringing this clearly conflicting show to a dynamic, though abrupt, end.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching The Wiz Live!, even if much of it came in the form of mockery or awkward awe (talking about you, Grinch coat). Whether or not we’ll see another live NBC musical “depends on how The Wiz does,” and I hope this self-proclaimed tradition continues. Either way though, we’ve got Fox’s Grease: Live to look forward to…


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