There are so many reasons why NBC’s live version of The Wiz worked as well as it did. From the vibrant colors to the acting to the story, it was nostalgia of the best kind.
First let me start off by saying that The Wiz succeeded because black people support black people. I know that we get a bad rep sometimes about not giving credit where it’s due, in particular to our own, but there is no denying the talent and production we saw in The Wiz.
But this is not a black and white thing. It is, however, the perfect example of what happens when you take a great story, great actors, a lot of energy and put it all together. All of that coupled with the hard work and preparation was a recipe for success.
If you are wondering if it is worth seeing, the answer to that is a resounding yes. I know a lot of times things don’t translate well onto the small screen, but this just works because it goes back to it’s roots- the original stage play from 1974.
As far as the actors that played each character, I am not going to say that they were the ideal or perfect match (well some of them) but I am going to say that it worked. From Amber Riley’s Addaperle the Good Witch of the North to Elijah Kelley’s Scarecrow, you can feel the connection of the characters and that is what draws you in.
With that, I do want to talk about Shanice Williams. The 19-year-old New Jersey native has definitely made a major splash onto the Hollywood scene. But if I am honest here, I wasn’t that impressed with her as Dorothy. Don’t get me wrong, she is a cutie and had a lot of energy, I just wasn’t totally convinced. Even with the spunk and attitude she brought, I don’t feel like she fully owned the role.
Other notable roles are Kelley’s take as the Scarecrow. He has a palpable energy he brings to the table, and his singing is out of this world. He is great as the creature with no brain as he captures the physical essence of the role. David Allen Greer as the Cowardly Lion is a hoot and he actually pulls off the singing quite well. Or rather well enough that he doesn’t sound horrible. He is funny, he is charming and able to keep up with the rest of the crew and for that, he get’s an A in my book. Mary J does a great job as the Wicked Witch of the West. She takes on the role, and it is clear that she put her all into the role.
Uzo Aduba as Glinda is refreshing. Not just because she is full of grace, but because of things like she wore a natural hairstyle and not the golden wig we saw in the promotional pictures. And her singing isn’t bad either. She is so sweet and gentle which means she nailed the role. I love that we get to see the depth and versatility of her acting ability.
Now for the character I didn’t care that much for- The Wiz. It is more so Queen Latifah‘s interpretation of him. I just didn’t like her in the role. I mean as The Wiz she was okay but as herself, she was boring. It was like seeing her act for the first time. I know that she is a better actress as she came off cheesy.
Other than that criticism, the Wiz was an enjoyable ride. Along with the cast doing their part to make the live show a success, I have to mention the casting of the supporting actors as well. I LOVE the fact that they weren’t all cookie cutter types that don’t represent reality. There were thick girls, not so trim boys, some queens and black people of various complexions. Some people may ask what’s the big deal with that, but you have to understand that most of the time, all we see on TV are skinny, big booty “yellow bone passengers” and those types of black folks are just a segment of the black community.
The fans and those who watched The Wiz are just as much responsible for its widespread appeal as the people playing the parts. We wanted it to win, and it did… big time.