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The Wiz Eases on down the road to NBC

It looks like Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and Cowardly Lion will be “easin’ on down the road” to Grumman Studios in Bethpage New York to perform in the holiday musical The Wiz Live! When and executive producers Craig Zaden and Neil Meron (Oscar-winning Chicago,Hair Spray and The Sound of Music Live!, decided on The Wiz, which will be directed by Kenny Leon (Tony-Award-winning A Raisin in the SunFences) as their next live holiday musical, they had no idea of the excitement the project would generate, especially in the black community.

The duo just loved the Tony-winning 1975 Broadway show, which reconceives L. Frank Baum’s classic fantasy The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as an “R&B turner” with an all black cast.

The Wiz Live, produced in association with Universal Television and Cirque du Soleil Theatrical will premiere and air from Grumman Studios in Bethpage, New York on Thursday, December 3. The production will be airing live at 8:00 p.m./ 7:00 p.m. central with a cast that includes Queen Latifah as The Wiz, Ne-Yo as the Tin Woodman, Mary J. Blige as the Wicked Witch of the West, David Alan Grier as The Cowardly Lion, Elijah Kelley as the Scarecrow and newcomer Shanice Williams as Dorothy. The rest of the case can be seen here.

This live production, based on the 1978 adventure/fantasy film of the same title created by L. Frank Baum, was made with the purpose of capturing the essence of the African American experience.

The The musical begins with Dorothy, a shy, unfulfilled sheltered 24-year-old Kindergarten teacher born, raised and still working in Harlem. She is celebrating Thanksgiving with her extended family but feels she does not have much to be thankful for in her life. However, her life suddenly changes she is caught in a snowstorm while chasing after her dog Toto.

They are transported to the mysterious Land of Oz, where Dorothy is informed that the only possible way to find her way back home is through the assistance of the powerful wizard in the Emerald City. As she moves onward in her quest for the Wizard (Queen Latifah) she befriends some creatures who, like Dorothy, are facing difficult challenges in their lives. During their journey to find and get help from the wizard, they also face Evillene (Blige), the equally evil sister of Evermean, the wicked witch whom Dorothy inadvertently killed when she arrived in Oz, and who may be their biggest obstacle in achieving their goals.

Live television direction will be by Matthew Diamond (So You Think You Can Dance, Oscar-nominated Dancemaker, Emmy Award-winning Shining Time Station) and choreographed by Fatima Robinson (The Voice, Dreamgirls film, VH1 Hip Hop Honors).

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