Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige join NBC’s ‘The Wiz Live!’ as Wiz, Wicked Witch

29 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Breaking: Queen Latifah and Mary J. Blige Join Cast of “The Wiz Live!”.

Like Carrie Underwood and Allison Williams before them, the Grammy-winning recording artists will be part of a live musical extravaganza. Latifah will play the mysterious and powerful wizard who holds the keys to the Emerald City, but who is keeping the secret that her metamorphosis from ordinary to extraordinary is a hoax since she only got to Oz as a result of a faulty hot air balloon ride.

NBC announced Thursday that the stars have officially been cast in The Wiz Live!, the much-anticipated adaptation of the 1975 Broadway hit, PEOPLE and Entertainment Weekly can exclusively reveal.“We are so happy reuniting with Latifah,” said executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, who worked with her on Hairspray and Chicago. “We’ve been friends for a long time and we’ve had quite a lot of success together. Blige will portray Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West – aka, The One With the Winged Monkeys. “I can’t wait to watch Mary bring the badness that is Evillene,” said Atlanta’s Tony-winning director, Leon. “Her talent range is off the charts and I know audiences won’t be able to take their eyes off her.” A previous casting announcement unveiled Stephanie Mills – who played Dorothy in the original Broadway production of “The Wiz” – as Auntie Em in this NBC version, which will air Dec. 3.

As for the lead role of Dorothy, it was announced in June that the network will hold an open casting call, giving an unknown actress the chance to take center stage. “The story of Dorothy has always been about someone new,” casting director Bernard Tesley told PEOPLE of the reason behind the decision in June. “It feels like the innocence of Dorothy should be a face that we don’t recognize and don’t know.” After the December telecast, Cirque du Soleil – who will oversee the production – will present The Wiz as a Broadway revival for the 2016-17 season. She scored her second career Emmy nomination as the title character in the critically acclaimed HBO biopic “Bessie” as legendary blues singer Bessie Smith. Blige’s evil Evillene holds sway over her minions, the Winkies and Winged Monkeys, and captures Dorothy and her friends to avenge her sister Evvamean and get her silver slippers back. To see her play the iconic role of the Wiz and make it her own is going to be one of the joys of producing this event.” Other films on Queen Latifah’s resume include “Bringing Down the House,” the “Ice Age” franchise, “Last Holiday” and “The Secret Life of Bees.” Queen Latifah has released seven albums and has an incredible array of musical styles and genres. Over her career she has sung with an eclectic range of performers, including Tony Bennett, Dolly Parton, Missy Elliott and Stevie Wonder, among many others.

Kenny Leon (Tony winner, “A Raisin in the Sun”) will direct, with Harvey Fierstein (three-time Tony winner, “Torch Song Trilogy,” “Hairspray” and “La Cage aux Folles”) providing new written material. Esteemed choreographer Fatima Robinson (“Dreamgirls,” “Ali”) is also on board, along with music producer Harvey Mason Jr. (“Dreamgirls, “Pitch Perfect 2”) and Stephen Oremus (“The Book of Mormon,” “Kinky Boots”) as music director, orchestrator and co-producer of the music.

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