When NBC announced that it would be doing a live version of the Broadway musical (not the 1978 film it inspired) of The Wiz, panic hit the hearts of many enriched with melanin. The Wiz – both versions – has a very special place in the heart of Black folks. Given the not-so-amazing productions of Peter Pan Live and The Sound of Music Live, we knew The Wiz Live would be one of two things: absolutely awful or spectacular. Thankfully, it was the latter.
I didn’t realize how much I needed nearly three hours to see Black people be funny, creative, talented, and full of joy without interference. I loved The Wiz Live so very much. Let me count the ways.
Stephanie Mills looked and sounded amazing.
I’m so glad the original Dorothy was included in this production. It was clearly for the better because there were certain parts where Shanice Williams, the 19-year-old who won the chance to play Dorothy this go ‘round, sang as if she’s had Mills hovered over her during rehearsal to make sure she got it right. That said, I wish Mills would’ve broken into her hit “Whatcha Gonna Do With My Lovin’” at some point during the show.
The costumes and stage design were both gorgeous.
I would love to steal the coat Queen Latifah wore when she made her debut as the Wizard. And might I just add that I sincerely appreciate everyone who helped make sure that Mary J. Blige had on her signature boots even with her turn as the Wicked Witch of the West.
Every form of dance was featured.
Thanks to choreographer, the legendary Fatima Robinson, The Wiz Live featured so many varying forms of dance including voguing, street, jazz, stepping, and so on. They even had a Soul Train line. It was like every generation’s incarnation of the Black bop. All hail Fatima.
It was inclusive and progressive in casting and tone.
The Wiz Live managed to tackle regressive gender roles and uplift women in its script. Moreover, it incorporated elements of Black queer culture into parts of the performance. On that, I rolled my eyes so hard they nearly fell out of their sockets when I saw some people – white people – attribute the dance scene during the first scene featuring The Wizard to Madonna’s “Vogue.” Oh, sweeties. Let Google guide you to a better, more informed life.
Black gay men taught Madonna that and trust and believe she knew nothing about vogueing and duck walking before that. In any event, last night I got to watch Black people be brilliant and talented and progressive on a major television network for nearly three hours and I do not take that for granted.
Mary J. Blige was phenomenal.
Now, I LOVE Mary J. Blige, but I was nervous for her. Her acting can be touch and go, mostly because she often seems nervous (see any MJB interview, ever). With that in mind, I worried a live production might prove daunting. Thank God the Queen shut my silly ass the hell up. She looked fantastic, sounded incredible, and her acting was more than just fine-fine-fine-fine-fine-fine, WHEW. Also, she should wear that shade of purple more often.
Queen Latifah is a treasure.
Okay, so a few things I didn’t love. Consider this an intermission.
No more southern accents for you , Ne-Yo.
I want to shout out Ne-Yo for overall doing a very good job, but from the bottom of my southern heart, I want him to stop trying to do a southern accent. He tends to sound like a slave fro
Was that product integration?
When Glenda The Good Witch said “My magic slate, it’s an Apple” I lost it a little. I mean, I’m typing this from an Apple, but that level of product integration will always seem weird. Then again, someone’s got to pay for the production.
The camera work and sound effects were distracting at some points.
There were more than a few moments in which NBC didn’t return to the telecast exactly when the play started again. It’s a live production, so I get it. But you know, cut that out in future reference. By now, I imagine they’re about to find all the Black plays they can to get folks like me to watch again.
Is the Cowardly Lion like what the kids call a butch queen?
This is not a critique so much as it is an inquiry.
In hindsight, were Dorothy and the gang entitled since they rolled up to somebody’s house asking for gifts?
Again, just an inquiry.
Alright, back to love.
For the record, I’m buying the DVD and will at least Spotify some of the songs from the soundtrack.
Again, I just want to say thank you to everyone involved. That was a much needed break from the weariness of the world. If anyone speaks ill of the production, they’re wrong. The end. Know that. The play even got the majority of Twitter (Black folks anyway) to say nice things about something on TV for hours. That’s a Christmas miracle. Joy to the world and s–t.