TV Review: The Wiz Live! (2015)

Posted: December 27, 2015 in Music, TV
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the wiz live

Dorothy Gale (Shanice Williams) lives in Omaha with her Aunt Em,(Stephanie Mills) but dreams of going back to Kansas where her parents lived.  A tornado hits her Aunt Em’s home and takes her to a magical place called Oz.  Dorothy’s house kills the Wicked Witch of the East, Evermean, which makes the munchkins very happy.  Dorothy then meets Addapearle (Amber Riley)who tells her in order to go home, she has to meet the Wiz in the Emerald City.  Along the way to the Emerald City, Dorothy finds a Scarecrow  (Elijah Kelly) rescues him from some nasty crows.  She also meets a Tin-Man (Nee Yo) and gives his rusty body some oil, and finally scares a Cowardly Lion (David Alan Grier) who’s pretending to be brave.  Together, they all go to meet the Wiz, the Lion wants some courage, the Scarecrow wants a brain, the Tin Man wants a heart, and Dorothy wants to go home.  But do they meet the All-powerful, omnipotent Wiz, (Queen Latifah) Or are they stopped in their tracks by Evilene (Mary J. Blige) Evermean’s wicked sister?

I enjoyed the Wiz Live!  The story stayed pretty faithful to the Wiz and Wizard of Oz stories, with a few modern day references thrown in for good measure.  That is not to say the original story is not powerful.  It is a very powerful story of self-reliance and faith in your own abilities.  I even shed a few tears while watching, so the story still works, with very little tinkering. I found it amusing to see the Twitterverse exploding with cries of ‘racism’ after this aired.  I guess the all-white cast of the Wizard of Oz bothered no one, right?   But it was the music and singing that made this version rise.  “Brand New Day” “Home” and “What I Would Do If I Could Feel” are standout songs.  This version of the play is better than the movie version in many ways.

The acting has to be judged in tandem with the singing since this was a musical.  Shanice Williams was not the best actress, but she more than made up for the lack of acting chops with a really powerful Broadway ready singing voice.  She knocked “Home” out of the park, it was a home run.  Also this was Williams’ first role, and it was live, so those are two major mitigating factors in her favor. Amber Riley from Glee was great as Addapearle with both her singing and acting talents on display.  Nee Yo was probably the best combination of singing and acting in the show, in my opinion.  He showed a deft touch in the role and a good singing voice, especially with the song “What Would I Do If I Could Feel?” Elijah Kelley was good as the Scarecrow, but Michael Jackson was better in the movie. David Alan Grier is a better actor than singer, and his voice wasn’t powerful at all times.  I thought Mary J. Blige’s voice would be better, and her acting was over the top.  Both Queen Latifah’s singing and acting was sub-par, but it was great to see Stephanie Mills as Aunt Em.  She played Dorothy in the original Broadway show. Her voice and acting skills still shine.

The direction was odd.  The staging of the tornado was the only outstanding visual, the other songs  seemed pedestrian in their staging  Some of the commercial breaks were oddly timed, and the ending seemed sudden and arbitrary.

The Wiz Live The Road Less Taken.

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