I now blog over at The Eyre Guide! This blog is an archive of my past posts.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Thoughts on The Wiz Live!

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,

Last week, NBC presented it's third live musical with The Wiz, starring Shanice Williams, David Alan Grier, Elijah Kelley, and Ne-Yo.  Compared to last year's presentation of Peter Pan, there was quite a few differences in the way this musical was made.  And the biggest difference for me, was the fact that everyone in the show was talented enough to hold their own in the acting and singing departments.  Wow, it can be done!  Because of that, there was no tongue-in-cheek aspect with the production, where they were self-aware that it was not very good.  And while it is fun to sort of laugh along with how bad it can be, I am much happier with admiring the performances of the actors, and of how they managed to bring these characters to life.  Another difference was in the set, which felt more like a stage - giant screens in the back showed the Kansas landscape, the tornado, and the fantastical landscapes of Oz and there was other stylized staging.  In a way it seems like they might have given the show a smaller budget this year, but also it works because building such fantastical settings might have been too overwhelming.  But the show definitely felt more like a live stage musical.

So back to the actors.  I think it's so wonderful they went with an unknown actress for the lead - Shanice Williams was truly fantastic.  Her voice is amazing, and with having to carry the show with so many seasoned professionals, she pulled it off marvelously.  With the celebrities who mostly made up the cast, I think it invigorated the production to have someone completely new.

It's really hard for me to pick a favorite performance between the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion.  I loved Elijah Kelley's Scarecrow who had a bit of a Michael Jackson flair, but still the actor made the role his own.  Ne-Yo as the Tin Man was really sweet, and David Alan Grier brought an understated humor to the Lion.  I loved it!  Really all the performances were great!

As for the actual musical - I'm not a big fan of The Wiz, and while it was interesting to see how they re-invented The Wizard of Oz, and in this live production, how they mixed elements of the movie and the original stage show, I'm still not a fan of the show.  The music is nice, but not really that memorable for me.  Except for my favorite song in the show "Home".  Which was excellently done of course.  I did think the last scenes when Dorothy sings "Home" and then is almost instantly back in Kansas was so well done.  It made me tear up a bit.

I hope this is a sign that NBC should now cast truly musical theater talented people for their live productions because it makes it so much more enjoyable to watch.  And there's still ways for the show to have interest even if there isn't a big name actor to watch and see if they can pull it off.   I'm excited to see what musical they will pick for next year!

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