Brace yourselves! NBC may have finally figured out how to make the live television musical work. The Wiz Live!, which aired Thursday night, was not only visually stunning, but the cast's combined voices and the modern touches updated the musical in a way that made it the entertaining spectacle worthy of three hours of your evening.
What makes The Wiz Live! a standout? Let's count the ways.
1. The sets: For a live musical there's a lot of rotating stage work to do on a relatively small space, but The Wiz Live! used digital backdrops to give a grandiose sense to Oz. From the opening tornado scene through Dorothy's (Shanice Williams) trip to Emerald City, the sets were stunning and helped create the sense that you were really in a mythical land.
2. 2015 look with a nostalgic feel: The Wiz first debuted in 1975, and there was a worry that the '70s vibe wouldn't play in the modern era. NBC left The Sound of Music and Peter Pan musicals relatively untouched from their original stage versions, but with The Wiz, Dorothy and her cohorts got an update in wardrobe, choreography and even dialogue without tampering with the spirit of the original production.
3. The voices: Every person involved in The Wiz Live! brought their A-game. While Christopher Walken had you questioning why he was involved in Peter Pan (and honestly, is anyone entirely sure that was really him under all that makeup?) each Wiz cast member had their standout moments, and the powerhouse vocals made the show a joy to watch.
4. David Alan Grier wins MVP: Everyone in The Wiz is talented, but David Alan Grier as The Cowardly Lion deserves a shout-out for being a surprising delight. Not only were his vocals on point, but he was fantastic comic relief.
5. Feminist Dorothy: In our Wiz wish list, we hoped that the new production would give Dorothy some agency. Not only did she have a lesson to learn and fears to conquer in the updated musical, but she also took a stand. When her friends start down the slippery slope of being disappointed that the Wiz (Queen Latifah) is a woman, she puts them right in their place. She's just the type of heroine needed to center the epic. Preach, Dorothy!
*The one complaint: Toto made a brief appearance at the very beginning of the musical, but then disappeared through the entire time in Oz. Where was Dorothy's best companion? Did he get hurt in the tornado? Did someone finally put him on the leash? He was in the posters. He was at the premiere. Where did that dog go?
According to The Wrap, Toto stayed in Kansas during the original stage production of The Wiz, so NBC followed suit for the live rendition, despite the fact that Toto travels to Oz in the traveling rendition of the show.
What did you think of The Wiz Live!?