Stop the presses. I have never been a fan of “The Wizard Of Oz” (any incarnation) but I kind of liked the move version of “The Wiz,” and I especially like the score of “The Wiz,” which I only know the movie version – never saw the Broadway production of it. I will not say I was very excited about the live television version of The Wiz tonight on NBC. (I think I am partial to shows where there are people falling in love)
But I liked this telecast. A lot more than I thought I would. First of all, it was nice to see the score gloriously played, and the updates on the arrangements were clever, making the sound a lot more contemporary (though I liked of liked the 70s soul vibe of the original as well) Harvey Feinstein’s beefing up of the book helped, but perhaps just a bit unnecessary, but appreciated.
The best thing about the show, for me, is teh cast. My absolute fave? Mary J Blige as Evilene The Wicked Watch. I thought her number stopped the show, and she had equal parts sass and camp . (I am doubting if she sang live but I am hoping she didn’t) Queen Latifah, as The Wiz, has the elss showy role, but she matched her appearance with professionalism and competence. David Alan Grier, Elijah Kelley, and Ne-Yo were good – Grier stole the scene whenever he could. Which brings me to Shanice Williams. Was a star born tonight? Maybe, but I am not too sure. Stephanie Mills and Diana Ross both gave iconic performances, and WIlliams here is fine, but a little lacking in the kind of star power I look for in Dorothy. Again, she’s competent enough, and at times showing glimpses of brilliance, but there is something there that is lacing for me. Her “Home” was very good, bu for me very good kind of falls short.
But she has enough fans, and for the most part, the show got raves. They will probably do another one next year, and that should be fine. I just hope they go back to a show where there is love.