Musical fans are gearing up for the soulful production of The Wiz Live! which will air on December 3. As producers ease on down the road a little closer to finalizing the cast NBC announced that Mary J. Blige and Queen Latifah have both accepted leading roles in the upcoming film. Fans of the ladies may remember they worked together on The Sound of Music Live!, a 2013 NBC small-screen musical.
Fans of The Wiz are excited to see the remake featuring current artists. The first time the musical hit the screen was in 1978 with a star-studded cast. Memorable artists such as the late Michael Jackson, Diana Ross and Lena Horne as well as the late Richard Pryor, Ted Ross, Mabel King and Nipsey Russell all joined forces to bring to life a musical production that fans would love decades later.
In addition to Blige who is cast as Evilene and Latifah who is cast as the all-powerful Wiz, The Wiz Live will also bring back the original Dorothy from The Wiz stage play, Stephanie Mills to take on the role of Auntie Em. NBC has not said who will take on the lead role as Dorothy in the televised production but expressed she must have youthful energy, an extraordinary voice and be able to convey a story through song. One person after learning of the addition of Latifah and Blige to the cast said:
JHud as Dorothy, John Legend as the Lion, Smollett as Tin Man, Jason Derulo or Usher as the Scarecrow. That used to seem like a totally unrealistic cast, but if they can get Mary, they are really swinging for the fences.
The original film was a collaboration of production between Motown and Universal Pictures. It was based on highly acclaimed The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. The reimaging of the film featured an all-black cast with a soulful introduction of brand new music. The remix showcased a shy schoolteacher named Dorothy from Harlem, NY who finds herself magically transported to the Land of OZ. As she seeks to find her way back home she is befriended by a Scarecrow (Michael Jackson), Tin Man (Nipsey Russell) and Cowardly Lion (Ted Ross). Together, with Dorothy’s dog Toto, the foursome travel on the yellow brick road to Emerald City in hopes of meeting with the Wiz (Richard Pryor) who “supposedly” had the power to get her back home.
Once the friends arrived at Emerald City, which is reflective of the notorious World Trade Center, the gang finds their way into the Wiz’s quarters to discover he is just a failed politician from New Jersey. The film is more than just a musical, it is actually a musical expression of an empowering message. The movie ends with each of the characters realizing what they were looking to find elsewhere was a power they each had within the entire time.
The addition of Latifah and Blige have boosted the anticipation of the fans. Both artists are “legends” in their own right. Kenny Leon, the film’s director, when speaking of the Queen of R&B, said he could not wait to watch Mary J. bring the badness that is known as Evilene. Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, executive producers, have enjoyed working with Latifah several times before. In a press release they stated:
We are so happy reuniting with Latifah. We have been friends for a long time and have had quite a lot of success together. 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.
Fans still have a few months before the show airs, but they are excited that Queen Latifah and Mary J. Blige have agreed to merge their talent with the musical production that has wowed people for decades. The Wiz Live! is a soulful song and dance remix of the beloved stage play The Wiz and a revised rendition of the highly acclaimed 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. The Wiz Live! is set to air on NBC December 3, 2015.
by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
Today: ‘The Wiz Live!’ now has its Wiz and Witch: Queen Latifah and Mary J. Blige
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