For the third time, NBC has brought a musical into our homes, LIVE. And like Dorothy’s three clicks of her heels, the third time has seemed to be the charm, as The Wiz, Live! Was a triumph, to say the least.
Right away, the giant LED screens provide an elegant, yet drab background of the Kansas farm. You know you’re in for a fun ride, once we arrive to Oz.
The book (the script) is new here, with Dorothy struggling with wanting to go “back home” to Omaha. She doesn’t like her new school and thinks Aunt Em works her to the bone. Aunt Em loves her anyway, and tries to tell Dorothy home is not a place, but where you are loved. Dorothy’s parents are gone, but Em does the best she can. And before we know it, a Tornado whips up Dorothy and her house and, you know the rest!
Here’s my quick review:
- Amber Riley was just perfect as the bubbly Addaperle, whom welcomes Dorothy to Oz. Props to the costumers who put her in blue, this is a nod to the original Oz book.
- Wow, the Scarecrow (played by Elijah Kelley) was funny here. I loved how he was trying to rush Dorothy along once they met Tin Man. And, let’s give praise to Elijah’s singing as well as that great back flip he landed!
- Shanice Williams was a fabulous Dorothy. The new book gave Dorothy some spunk. Her line to the crows, “I already killed a witch this morning, and I wasn’t even mad at her!” was great and she delivered it well. Also, this is almost silly to say, but come on, we know her singing was OFF THE CHARTS. Man, that version of “Home” was just beautiful. Judy Garland has some competition there.
- I hate to bunch them together, not because they weren’t fantastic on their own, but I loved the Tin Man and Lion. Ne-Yo had a distinct accent and fantastic movement. David Alan Grier made the Lion his own and his comedy shined through.
- One of the most chilling moments in this show was new— when Dorothy is trying to find the yellow brick road, and her dead mother calls out to her. Her mother is trapped in a tree, and to get her down, the mother advises Dorothy to give her the magic silver shoes. Of course, we find out “mother” is really a creature of the forest, trying to trap Dorothy, who is saved by the Tin Man. This was just a brilliant moment and I can see it being used in other productions.
- The Emerald City being set up as a nightclub was interesting. I loved the dancing once we got inside. Just wonderful.
- Queen Latifah. What can I say? Having a female Wizard works here, and she was just great all around. Although, I didn’t like how it is she, and not Dorothy, that help the three friends realize they have brains, a heart, and courage. Dorothy needs to always be the one to tell her friends they’ve had what they sought after. The Wiz is a fake, how does she know?
- Mary J Blige had me worried in press footage. She didn’t seem evil, at all. But, I was happy to see she was screeching and stomping, in brilliant fashion. Not just a singer saying lines, she was acting. Her melting was great, and the purist in me loves they actually threw water on her, and not Glitter.
Now, onto some negatives:
- Uzo Aduba was alright. She came across as “the wicked’s glinda”, you know, kind of flighty, silly. And look, I know singing is tough, but she was flat here and there. But, what was very off putting was her hair. Now, here me out. In press footage, Glinda had blond curly hair, to go with her her gold dress. But, Uzo came out in what I think was her actual hair, with little gold jewels in it. It’s not that it looked “bad”. But I’m wondering if getting her in that dress was taking to long and they scrapped the wig. Her look definitely seemed unfinished.
- Toto. Oh, man, Toto. Where was he? NOWHERE. He came and barked at the farm hands and seemingly missed the tornado. I absolutely hate a production that ignores Toto. And The Wiz, Live! Took it to a new level. He didn’t even go to Oz. Well, that’s a new one.
- Lastly, after Dorothy sang ‘Home’ and returned home, we literally saw her in Kansas for 5 seconds. The production still had twenty minutes left. We needed a ‘moment.’ Aunt Em rushed to hug Dorothy and Toto, who we hadn’t seen in three hours, jumped in Dorothy’s arms and… that was it.
Overall, this production was magical. This certainly was the best of the three and it being about Oz was a treat for me, since that’s one of my favorite things. (See what I did there?)