A great deal of interest was sparked when it was announced the NBC’s next live musical would be The Wiz (especially considering tepid ratings and responses to Peter Pan). Between the more socially relevant selection and the curious collaboration with Cirque du Soleil, the collective flame for the idea of a televised live musical had been somewhat rekindled. Now it seems that the interest will only continue to escalate, as Queen Latifah and Mary J. Blige have just been announced as leads.
Latifah, EW reports, will play The Wiz, played by Richard Pryor in the original film, and Mary J. Blige will embody silver shoe-lust and utter evil as the evilly named Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West (which Mabel King played in the film).
Though these two characters, based on those who originally appeared in Frank L. Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, need no introduction, NBC has provided a character description of The Wiz, “the mysterious and powerful wizard who holds the keys to the Emerald City, but whose metamorphosis from ordinary to extraordinary is itself a hoax. She rose to her lofty position after being transported by accident to Oz in a hot air balloon during a snowstorm.” As for Blige’s Evillene, she’s said to hold “sway over the Winkies and the Winged Monkeys that do her bidding. She captures Dorothy and her friends to avenge the unintentional murder of her evil sister, Evvamean, and to get back the powerful silver slippers given to Dorothy by the Good Witch of the North.”
The Wiz first played in Baltimore in 1974, and the famous film adaptation was released in 1978. The new NBC production premieres Thursday, December 3 on NBC, and is directed by Kenny Leon, with new music from Harvey Fierstein.