NBC Easin’ On Down with ‘The Wiz’

The Hollywood Reporter reports today that NBC and its perennial partnership with producing partners (that’s a lot of alliteration) Craig Zadan and Neil Meron have settled on the Tony award-winning musical The Wiz as its next live musical event. Upping the ante over past productions, The Wiz will reportedly feature spectacle from Cirque du Soleil and will head to Broadway the following spring for the 2016-2017 season. No cast announcements have been made to date.

The production, a musical retelling of the classic The Wizard of Oz starring an African-American cast, follows the recent explosion of diversity on network television including Black-ishHow to Get Away with MurderFresh off the BoatCristela, and – perhaps most importantly for this material – FOX’s smash hit musical Empire. It’s a wise selection for the network because not only does it feature popular, catchy tunes but it also is a more modern production that will undoubtedly attract a broader, younger audience – the kind advertisers crave.

Set to air on Thursday, December 3, the televised musical is the latest in the recent string of successful productions that began with Sound of Music Live! and, to a lesser extent, Peter Pan Live!. Zadan and Meron, who recently announced that they will not return to produce the 2016 Oscar telecast, and NBC aren’t pulling any punches with this elaborate production: Tony award-winner Kenny Leon (A Raisin in the Sun) will direct the production with Harvey Fierstein (Kinky BootsNewsies) providing new material to accompany the original book by William F. Brown.

The Wiz originally premiered on Broadway in 1975, won 7 Tony Awards, and ran for four years. Its 1978 film version was directed by Sidney Lumet and famously starred Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Richard Pryor, and Lena Horne. It featured eye-popping, often nightmarish visuals that were countered by a soundtrack of memorable songs including “Ease On Down The Road,” “You Can’t Win,” “Brand New Day,” and “Home.” The film only grossed about half of its original budget, however, but has since become something of a cult classic among ethnic audiences.

There was some speculation as to the next featured property in NBC’s annual musical event. Zadan and Meron have previously announced options on other Broadway hits including The Music Man and A Few Good Men. No further announcements have been made indicating if or when those properties will see the small screen.

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2 comments

  1. Avatar
    Antoinette 7 years ago

    I love the movie version of THE WIZ. But in this case I’m glad it’s getting a redo. I was hoping they’d choose it for the live telecast. I enjoy them. Even if I had to make fun of that Peter Pan one. This one should be great. As long as they don’t hire the lead through nepotism again. NBC loves the whole nepotism thing. That Bush kid that’s on the Today Show could not have been the most qualified person to do segments as Brian Williams daughter wasn’t the best singer/actress out there either. I would love to see NBC alum Jesse L. Martin in it though. Maybe as the Lion? He’s super qualified.

    1. Avatar
      Clarence Moye 7 years ago

      I think it has the potential to be really great as well. It’s the first one of these things that I’ve been sort of excited about. Much more so than The Music Man or whatever else they were considering.

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