The Wiz Live! (Help Me Review)

I spent the week waiting for The Wiz Live! to air on NBC. With the 1978 Diana Ross version being a favorite of my family and most black families I know, it was a must see. I watched the production wide-eyed and giddy, enjoying pretty much every single moment.

Here is my overall assessment of the play.



Shanice Williams was a wonderful Dorothy. Even though I did not know her before now, I look forward to seeing her in the future. She was great!

Elijah Kelley, the Scarecrow, was another unknown to me, but he was great! Wonderful voice and his acting was just as good! I waited to judge him after his performance of You Can’t Win, and I passed him with flying colors.

David Allen Grier as the Cowardly Lion was… David Allen Grier. What else can I say? Humorous, accurate and just a little much! (The little much is what to expect from David Allen Grier.) I loved him!

Ne-Yo… Let me start by saying, I am NOT a Ne-Yo fan! I AM NOT A NE-YO FAN! With that being said, he was by far the best part of the show! I really really enjoyed him! He sang, he danced, and he acted! He performed! Tin-Man was EXCELLENT!

Mary J. Blige showed me a side of her that I didn’t know existed with her portrayal of Evillene. She was so funny to me. Her acting was pretty good, and I am so thankful that she did not have to dance… Because Mary J. can’t dance… At all.

Queen Latifah’s acting as The Great and Powerful Wiz was subpar if you ask me. She seemed to be a little rigid; not Queen Latifah I know from the movies. The way her story was written for a female to hide under the guise of a male wizard was a decent twist as well.

Common the Bouncer was awful.

There is this one teeny tiny complaint that I have though. It was brought to my attention by a fan of The Wiz while discussing the Live! production. She simply stated that, “It wasn’t The Wiz,” and debate ensued. And I lost.

The Argument

If I am not mistaken, Diana Ross played a twenty-four year old school teacher from Harlem, New York in The Wiz. Judy Garland played a disgruntled niece from a small rural midwestern town in The Wizard of Oz. It was the urban factor that made The Wiz what it was. It was a distinct theme used for the separation of white and black culture. In the Live! production, those urban themes were not there. There was no graffiti scene. There was no subway scene (which I was personally waiting for). All of the characters were discovered in places that stuck closer to the script of The Wizard of Oz, rather than the urban locations of The Wiz.

And I wonder if there was a compromise somewhere to fulfill The Wizard of Oz’s script instead of that of The Wiz’s. Should the differences have gone unnoticed because of an all black cast? Was it easier to produce without the urban imagery? And if so, can we still call it The Wiz without that urban imagery? Or maybe there is too much thought going into this, and I should be happy with an all black cast and our original music?

It was an excellent production though!

6 thoughts on “The Wiz Live! (Help Me Review)

  1. Good review but as a Producer myself (LOL) I have to chime in a little. “The Wiz” was first a Broadway play and then made into movie so it was a combination of both which is why it wasn’t as close to the movie as you would have liked.

    I grew up with Elijah Kelley (He’s from LaGrange, GA) so I’m a little bias. But he’s been in few movies (Red Tails, The Butler, Hairspray) so I was very proud of him. Anyway I agree Common they could have left that part out. Mary J. surprised me! She Sang “Don’t Bring No Bad News” she danced a little. My favorite was David I was very impressed. But anywho good review. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think you pretty much nailed it with your review. zI thought it was spectacular and enjoyed every minute and I was searching for a positve review because everyone on sociak media want to compare it with Sound of Music or Peter Pan or bash it for having an all black cast…..your review outdoes all of those…..I am white and totally dislike all the negative comments and glad I saw your blog

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I thought the talent displayed was fantastic! However, I agree with you. The urban twists were missing and it was more like the Wizard of Oz, but with subtle mainstream themes (the dancers did the “nae nae” multiple times, Mary used the term “shade”, etc.) that kind of annoyed me. I guess those are some of the urban themes of today, but I would’ve loved to see something closer to The Wiz with all those talented black people on stage!

    Liked by 1 person

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