NBC’s The Wiz Live! just blew everyone’s collective mind, but there was just one little, four-legged problem.
When NBC announced it would be presenting The Wiz Live! as a follow-up to its previous two live musical productions (Peter Pan Live! and The Sound of Music Live!), the Internet cracked its collective knuckles in anticipation of another round of delightful hate-watching. But when The Wiz Live! took over the airwaves tonight, everyone’s jaws dropped instead.
Basically, instead of snark and criticism, audiences were saying things that no one said about NBC’s past two musicals.
Everyone pretty much agreed this musical was flat-out better than the last.
Here are the reasons The Wiz Live! worked.
1. A star is born
Instead of casting a known celebrity as Dorothy, NBC cast a fresh-faced, previously unknown actress in the role. And sure, The Wiz Live! had some tremendous star power behind it, but audiences couldn’t get enough of newbie Shanice Williams. Before being cast, Williams was a 19-year-old community theater actress with big dreams — but that changed tonight, now that America knows how amazingly talented she is.
2. Amazing costumes
Wow — talk about stunning! The costumes for the show were incredible, and everyone was definitely taking note!
3. The choreography rocked
Did the Crows really do the nae nae? Yes, yes, they did. Choreographer and music video director Fatima Robinson has choreographed music videos for superstars like Michael Jackson and Mary J. Blige. Her expertise definitely came through on The Wiz Live!
4. Topical and multi-layered
Even though the original film was a box office failure, The Wiz has remained a cult favorite. Reviving the film now, considering how divided our country is over racial tensions, feels particularly prescient. And its effect isn’t being missed by audiences.
Not only are there some great lines in the script, there’s a lot of symbolism jumping out at people, too.
5. Diversity matters
Although television is making strides toward reflecting a more diverse world in casting, much of our entertainment in the U.S. is still predominantly white — so seeing a production like The Wiz Live!, where the cast is decidedly not white, is huge, and audiences took notice.
6. Mary J. Blige
Need we say more? Mary J. Blige positively owned the role of the Evil Witch of the West, proving that she can act just as well as she sings her heart out.
7. Amber Riley stunned
Glee fans already knew that actress and singer Amber Riley has incredible pipes, but I don’t think anyone was prepared for just how mind-numbingly awesome her performance was going to be. It was perfection!
And this shot with Riley and the amazing Uzo Aduba is one of our favorites!
With all that awesomeness onscreen, social media users were hard-pressed to find reasons to complain… except for one teeny, tiny, adorable missing cast member.
Where the heck was Toto?
Apparently, the furry beast was omitted from the live stage version in all but the beginning and end scenes of the show — and, so, with his part pared down to mere minutes, Toto played a much smaller role in The Wiz than he did in The Wizard of Oz. Of course, fans of the original movie (and of The Wizard of Oz) didn’t seem to know that little tidbit, so Toto’s absence was sorely felt.
But not to worry — he didn’t seem to mind his backstage hangout time!