NBC’s ‘The Wiz Live’ premiered to rave reviews last night. The TV adaptation of the classic Broadway play averaged a 4.4 rating in adults 18-49, exceeding the network’s ‘Peter Pan Live!’ production that aired last year.
From David Alan Grier’s charismatic Cowardly Lion performance to Amber Riley’s stunning vocals (and every stitch of Mary’s costume in between), here’s #TeamBeautiful’s reaction to the stellar stage show.
Allison McGevna, Managing Editor
I was so pleasantly surprised to see just how amazing ‘The Wiz Live’ was. From the performances to the production quality to the massive Black Twitter viewing party, the entire experience was one of the most fun TV moments of the year. NBC really brought the live theater experience to viewers at home, who may not have access to seeing a show. And while I loved the whole cast, I was particularly impressed with David Alan Grier, Ne-Yo and, as a NJ native myself, Shanice Williams (werk!). For it to be her first major role and to deliver the performance she did, I just can’t think of a better example of #BlackGirlMagic.
For those who have criticisms of the show — it’s important to remember that a live production simply can’t have the same cinema magic that a film does. And let’s face it, it’s nearly impossible to live up to legends like Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. But the cast and crew still gave me life and I’m so proud of them for bringing such an iconic piece of Black culture to the masses.
Leigh Davenport, Editorial Director
Okay, look. I was never a big fan of ‘The Wiz.’ The movie was scary to me and oddly dark. I also took issue with Dotty’s dream of getting out the hood (below 125th Street). In the film, she literally leaves a land of black and white to go over the rainbow to a land of color. The two worlds just didn’t seem comparable to me. Also, I absolutely LOVE ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ It’s one of my mother’s favorite movies (along with ‘The Sound of Music’) and it was a family tradition to watch it every year when it was broadcast annually on network television. (We obviously don’t want it when it’s on cable for 24 hours a day anymore.) So, let me be honest, I didn’t really have an emotional connection to ‘The Wiz,’ nor did I think the live broadcast would be great because, well… ‘Peter Pan.’ But I am so happy to admit how terribly wrong I was. I was too young to have ever seen the Broadway version that made Stephanie Mills a star, but if last night’s performance was anything close to it, I can see why she is a legend of our time.
The costumes were beautiful, the stage design was fantastic and the star-studded cast was enough to make the show entertaining and believable. Sure, there were some less than amazing acting moments, but overall it was just a fabulous spectacle of kick-ass Black talent and I’m always here for that. Cheers to the amazing director Kenny Leon, whose theater talents continue to wow audiences around the country. The Wiz Live was a bright light for Black Americans in what has been an unbearably dark year. I hope they play it again on Christmas Eve!
Shamika Sanders, Entertainment Editor
I was ready to hate ‘The Wiz Live.’ In fact, I planned on skipping it all together. Coincidentally, my TV was on the NBC channel when I got home and I walked straight into Auntie Em and Dorothy’s opening scene. Dorothy won me over with her sassy yet innocent charm and Auntie Em…well, two words: Stephanie Mills. I was blown away by Amber Riley’s gorgeous costume and boisterous pipes. Before I knew it, I was 30 minutes in, sitting on the couch with my eyes glued to the screen anticipated Dorothy’s run-in with the crew she would trot down the yellow brick road with.
I was beyond impressed with David Allen Grier’s performance as the Cowardly Lion. He was my favorite character. I was in awe of The Wiz’s (Queen Latifah) green contour. She slayed. The production was visually stunning and I really enjoyed every minute of it.
Keyaira Kelly, Staff Writer
I know the live version was based off of the broadway show, not the movie, but I am such a huge stan of the epic, iconic Diana Ross, Richard Pryor, Michael Jackson (need I go on?) version that I couldn’t get out of my head to critique this as a rendition in its own lane. I think it really lacked the grit and soul that exists in the spirit of the original. I know it needed to be packaged and commercialized for a general audience vs just black folks, but I was disappointed in that. I appreciated the modern twist they brought (I mean, tin-man hitting the dab, so timely), and also the glitter fabulous OZ vogue dancers.
Some high moments were: Queen Latifah’s green contour game, Uzo Aduba’s ethereal costume and Shanice William’s ‘Home’ finale.
Last night’s show was amazing. I definitely felt like a little girl again watching the show be re-invented with artists we love today, whether they were veterans in the industry or fresh faces like the star of the show, Shanice Williams. David Alan Grierr killed it. Uzo Aduba killed it. And I’m really proud of the way Queen Latifah played The Wiz with her own flavor as a female lead in a traditionally male role. I think this production just goes to show that it’s important for mainstream media outlets to continue to pay tribute to Black culture and to cater to America’s Black audiences. Our music and our stories are integral to the history and the overall culture of this country, and newer generations won’t understand that if we don’t keep reflecting that in film and television. Since ‘The Wiz’ was such a great success, I think that adding ‘Dreamgirls’ to the lineup is the most obvious choice to keep moving in this direction. Congrats to Kenny Leon for directing such a great show!