Though we’re all familiar with the Judy Garland version, there have been approximately three billion other adaptations of The Wizard of Oz, and NBC’s 2015 broadcast of The Wiz Live might actually be the best??? Judge for yourself this weekend when it’s available to stream for 48 hours.
Andrew Lloyd Weber’s company has been posting a new stage-to-screen show (nearly) every Friday as part of an ongoing fundraiser for various worthy causes (this week it’s the NAACP), and while nobody was in the mood for Peter Pan Live last weekend (which they canceled), now seems like a great time for an all-Black musical about the power of community and found family.
Even if you’re not an Oz fan, there’s so much to love in this live version: The cast is fantastic, the Cirque du Soleil dancers bring pizzazz, and Harvey Fierstein’s teleplay fixes a lot of the problems from the original text. (Dorothy’s choice to leave Oz actually makes sense in this one!)
I’ll confess that I’ve never really loved the 1978 musical adaptation of The Wiz, despite the presence of Diana Ross. Inexplicably directed by Sidney Lumet (the Dog Day Afternoon guy) and with a script even more inexplicably written by Joel Schumacher (the Batman and Robin guy), that movie has gorgeous moments and a great cast but is undermined throughout by a drab 70s malaise.
That is not a problem with the 2015 version! Bright colors everywhere, huge energy and enthusiasm, and a streamlining of some of the repetitive songs make this version a stupendous blast to watch. And oh goodness, this cast: Amber Riley from Glee, Mary J. Blige as the Wicked Witch, Queen Latifah, David Alan Grier, Common, Ne-Yo — argh it’s so perfect when you get rid of the celebrity stunt-casting that other live musicals were saddled with, and just cast great performers who can kill it in their roles.
Obviously, this weekend is going to be busy with more protesting and political action, and your schedule is likely already filled with activities that are far more important than sitting down to watch a musical on YouTube. But when you get home from the protests, give yourself some time to relax and unwind with some unadulterated Black joy.
The Wiz Live will be available starting at 11am pacific on Friday, and will come down at 11am on Sunday.