NBC produced their third live musical broadcast on December 3rd, with new and known talent.
Directed by Kenny Leon, choreographed by Fatima Robinson and brilliantly casted by Bernard Telsey, this group of artistic geniuses set out to find their Dorothy. Who did they find? Shanice Williams, only 19 years old, and a New Jersey native, who decided to go on her first New York acting audition, and jump into the insane open call for The Wiz Live! Out of hundreds of other talented actresses, Shanice blew the artistic team away and won the coveted part of Dorothy. Throughout the entire performance, Shanice took the stage with her interpretation of Dorothy. Her voice, dancing and acting skills were quite impressive for a young, green actress, and she will be the eye-candy of all casting directors from now on.
Starring alongside Williams was Ne-Yo (Tin Man), Elijah Kelley (Scarecrow) and David Alan Grier (Cowardly Lion), who all created a brilliant ensemble to William’s Dorothy. Elijah Kelley, having to live up to the famous performance by Michael Jackson in the movie version, soared. His acting, singing, dancing, connection to every part of the show was palpable, and he quite honestly stole majority of the show. Other standouts of the night were Amber Riley, who played the Witch of the North and Uzo Aduba, who portrayed Glinda. Both actresses sang their heart out and left the audience wanting to hear more of their incredible voices.
Unfortunately, Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige and Common paled in comparison to their fellow ensemble members. True, each held their own throughout the show and took ownership of their choices. However, they seemed to be in a different world than the other actors. Also, unlike the movie version of The Wiz, the live telecast production set itself in Kansas, parallel to its inspiration The Wizard of Oz. For many, one of the greatest aspects of The Wiz is that Dorothy is from New York and the entire show takes place throughout the city. Nonetheless, the sets and costumes were spectacular and fit with the world that Kenny Leon created. Of course, the choreography by Fatima Robinson was fantastic, though some of the acrobatic stunts did not work as well as they could have.
The Wiz is set to have a revival next year on Broadway, making this telecast come at the perfect time, allowing audiences to remember the magic and joy this show can bring.