‘The Wiz Live!’ Review: NBC Production Eases on Down the Road With Style

5 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘The Wiz': Ne-Yo’s Dance Move Was Most Tweeted Moment During Telecast.

Thursday’s staging of The Wiz Live! on NBC was a big success for the network with over 11 million viewers, strong reviews, and a huge reaction on social media. The third live musical from NBC, which drew 11.5 million viewers on Thursday night, spurred more than triple the amount of tweets as the network’s two previous outings.At a time when the country is reeling from mass shootings, protests over police killing black teens, and presidential candidates railing against immigrants and refugees, there is no better time to experience a soothing, expertly executed celebration of family, friendship and black culture.

EW talked to producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron about the great reaction, taking the show to Broadway in 2016 and what their next live musical will be. With The Wiz Live having proven to be an across-the-board success after airing Thursday, Dec. 3, on the network, the show’s producers are now admitting that their 2014 effort didn’t quite soar. Throughout the three-hour telecast — a new version of the beloved 1975 Broadway production that updated The Wizard of Oz with a majority African-American cast and starring Shanice Williams, Ne-Yo, Common, Mary J. Blige, an ever-regal Queen Latifah in the title role and a glittering emerald set — is leaving behind a pleasant afterglow among the Tampa Bay theater community.

Our cast of parents, aunties and cousins in this south Kansas City home sang, danced and laughed for nearly three hours during NBC’s wonderful “Wiz Live!” broadcast. Producers of “The Wiz” said they love doing a live musical during the holiday season, but said the only way it would continue is if ratings for “The Wiz” were up over “Peter Pan.” Sugar Ray lead singer Mark McGrath, 47, shared this solemn message via Twitter following the news that former Wondergirls band mate Scott Weiland had died. Blige, Amber Riley, Uzo Aduba, Elijah Kelley, David Alan Grier and Stephanie Mills — nearly 279,400 people posted just over 1.6 million tweets about The Wiz, and 6.4 million people saw those tweets a total of 128.9 million times. With an audience of 11.5 million, the musical attracted 2 million more viewers than last year’s Peter Pan, but fewer than the 18.6 million people who watched The Sound of Music, starring Carrie Underwood.

We wanted this to be a really good morning for us and we wanted to really make sure that this tradition has legs to continue and I think this morning proves that there is an audience for these live musicals. The Wiz differed significantly from either of those productions, both for its all-black cast (the first two were white as Wonder Bread), and as the recipient of better critical reviews.

Blige brought to their roles as Good Witch Addaperle and Bad Witch Evilene to the vogueing dance moves of folk in the Emerald City and Dorothy’s lines about her “squad” of friends. In response to the jarring loss, celebrities, fans and former band mates took to social media to commemorate Weiland, who fronted a number of bands over his nearly three-decade-long career — most famously, the Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver. The night’s activity spike came at 8:49 pm ET, when Ne-Yo “hit the dab” as the Tin Man during the song “Slide Some Oil to Me” and triggered 15,218 tweets per minute, making his dance move the most tweeted moment of the live airing. (Dana Delany was particularly appreciative.) The 19-year-old New Jersey native vaulted effortlessly from the gee-whiz enthusiasm of Dorothy’s most earnest moments to the independent spirit a sister sometimes needs to keep some brothers in line.

None of us were disappointed in the newest remix of this soulful adaptation of “The Wizard of Oz.” “Look at all these generations in this room,” said Nicole Williams, mama to 8-year-old Savanna, my gracious host. “We’re all here. Coldplay is headlining the Super Bowl halftime show, and a spokesman for the National Football League hinted that past halftime performers could join the band onstage. NBC had tried its hand at modernizing old classics into live specials with the Carrie Underwood version of “The Sound of Music” and last year’s “Peter Pan” starring Allison Williams — mediocre efforts that earned hate-tweeting audiences. “The Wiz Live!” surpassed all expectations. That fact alone “fills us with such a sense of pride,” said Kevin Hendrick, Northeast’s principal. “We suggested they watch television (Thursday) night, which is something we don’t often do,” Hendrick said. “In this case, it shows not only what has happened, but what they might become.” Bob Devin Jones, the artistic director at the Studio@620, said that the production “definitely amplified” black talent in Hollywood and nationally despite a well-documented shortage of representation. The Wiz resonated culturally, Jones said, as did How to Get Away with Murder’s Viola Davis winning an outstanding actress in a drama Emmy earlier this year, the first such honor for an African-American.

One of the women Sheen claims extorted him for millions after they learned of his HIV-positive status is now suing him, claiming he reneged on a $1-million settlement and also forced her to terminate a pregnancy because of fear the child would be HIV-positive, too. On Thursday, porn star Brett Rossi, 26, who was engaged to Sheen from November 2013 to October 2014, hit the TV star with a lawsuit claiming assault and battery, emotional distress, false imprisonment and negligence. ■ Bruce Springsteen will kick off a 9-week U.S. tour next year. When Queen Latifah first emerged as The Wiz, Dorothy and her crew repeatedly treated the character as a man, sparking comments online about Latifah playing across gender.

Washington said he appreciated the updated touches on a 40-year-old musical, which opened on Broadway in 1975, then a few years later became a movie starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. But when the classic scene unfolded where they discover The Wiz is a fraud, they also discover he is a she – a skillful bit of gender bending that felt like a trademark nod from Kinky Boots author Fierstein. I feel like I’m 7 again watching this, only from a better neighborhood.” Kristen Chenoweth, who starred in another Oz adaptation, Wicked, messaged, “Loving this one!!” More importantly, a wide range of average viewers — some of whom might be considered members of that tastemaking group media likes to call Black Twitter — embraced the production, too. One account named @Beautifully_C tweeted: “#‎TheWizLive is serving natural hair, black vernacular, black gays, black non gender conforming ppl…it is LITTTT.” And @dray noted: “#‎TheWizLive is a reminder that we are, and have always been, more than our pain.

Shots often focused too tightly on performers during crucial moments – particularly when special effects such as fireworks or explosions were deployed around them. Blige as Evillene, who had so much swag with her rendition of “Bad News”; Uzo Aduba as Glinda, who took us to church and baptized us in the river with “If You Believe”; and Amber Riley as Addaperle, whose sushi lunches and iPad made us all smile when she sang “He’s the Wizard.” The visuals grabbed you off your couch and twirled you right on into Oz. It felt like you were in the tornado, and also the use of musical comedy where Fatima choreographed the dancers for the tornado, and we had flying and the digital animation … I think that was representative of something you looked at and went, “Wow.

From its earliest beginnings, The Wiz has been a proud example of how the most traditional elements of American pop culture can be transformed and made even more enjoyable by blending with black culture and talented black performers. It’s important we are reminded to look inside ourselves, to rise above the bad and come together.” I met Savanna in July when she put on an art show inspired by “The Wiz,” to raise money — over $1,200 it turned out — for orphans in Rwanda. “I saw the movie and I liked the music and how they all found each other and helped each other. Thursday night, every time Dorothy, Addaperle or even Evillene appeared on screen, the little girls and teen queens in the room said, “She’s so pretty.” I felt that same way when I first saw Diana Ross as Dorothy. Back then, you didn’t see a lot of black and brown heroines. “I think this is important because it shows young African-Americans doing great things.

ZADAN: My favorite song in the whole show and it’s always been that way since I was a kid and saw this show on Broadway is “Be a Lion.” That number just kills me. If Shanice Williams can be Dorothy and Judy Garland can be Dorothy and we can love and relate to them both, it’s more than a bridge between the generations. She’s been handling this with utmost grace with confidence, with kind of supernatural calmness that you’d think she knows she’s playing out her destiny. ZADAN: Kenny always felt like when The Wiz tells them they have to go off and kill the witch that this was a place that was crying out for a musical number.

Kenny has some expression I’ll paraphrase badly: “He’s taken 1975 and pushed it to 2020 and somewhere in the middle is now.” I think that’s what the attitude was about Harvey’s book, Fatima’s choreography, and the whole look of the show — it came out of a certain vision that Kenny had. Are they going to say “Oh yeah, I want to go to Broadway for a year”? or will somebody say, “I’ll give you six months.” We don’t know any of that.

Let’s just say we’ve been having ongoing conversations with Bob Greenblatt and we’re throwing everything up in the air and discussing other titles but we haven’t really landed.

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