Ease on Down the Road with Autostraddle: The Wiz Live! Liveblog and Sing-a-long

Tonight, NBC will bless us, once again, with their annual Live! musical production. It’s The Wiz Live! and it’s gonna’ be so damn good. Honestly, it wouldn’t take much to top NBC’s last two Live! productions, Peter Pan Live! and The Sound of Music Live!. Peter Pan Live! gave us feelings for Allison Williams we really weren’t ready for, but was otherwise awful and kinda’ racist. The Sound of Music Live! was straight up milktoast. But musical theater geeks like me will watch anyway. Especially tonight, because even if The Wiz Live! is silly and over-produced like the last two, it is still going to be effing spectacular.

I mean, look at this flawless, gold star cast!

Source: People / Photo credit: Paul Gilmore/NBC

Source: People / Photo credit: Paul Gilmore/NBC

The original Dorothy in the 1975 broadway production of The Wiz, Stephanie Mills, is playing Auntie Em. Dorothy is newcomer and real talent, Shanice Williams. Glinda the Good Witch and Evilene the Wicked Witch are played by Uzo Aduba and Mary J. Blige, respectively, and good lord, their dresses are incredible! The Wiz, herself, is none other than Queen Latifah, in some sort of David Bowie-ish hair and makeup situation that I’m getting used to. Ne-Yo and Common and David Alan Grier and Amber Riley and Elijah Kelley (who musical nerds might remember from the Hairspray movie) are in the mix, too. Goodness gracious, what an ensemble!

Here’s a sneak peek clip that is giving me life, oh yes:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVIHBdTuVGc

Oh gosh, look at Mary J. Blige absolutely killing it in this other clip. EXCELLENCE.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rg5yJPZ1nR0

Here’s some behind the scenes action with the stars, oh my:

The Wiz opened on Broadway in 1975. It is a retelling, or reclaiming, if you will, of Frank Baum‘s The Wizard of Oz, taking the classic story about home, loss, and finding one self out of rural Kansas and into modern times, with an all-Black cast. The 1975 production won seven Tony awards and is one of the first musicals with an all-Black cast to break through to a mainstream theatre audience. There have only been a handful of Broadway plays or musicals with an all-Black cast since.

According to the most recent 2011-2012 stats from the Asian American Performer’s Action Coalition, white non-hispanic actors occupy 79% of the roles on Broadway. African American performers account for 14% of roles and Latino and Asian performers for 3% each. There is still an urgent need to see Black performers’ in a theatre production that centers and celebrates Black artists. Alaina, my theatre nerd co-host for tonight’s liveblog, recently posted a list of plays they’d like to see recast with Black actors, that really drives home this point. What’s great about The Wiz Live! is that, unlike a Broadway revival (which is slated for the 2016-2017 season, actually), this show is coming into people’s homes on their television via basic cable, accessible to people who can’t typically afford the ticket prices for live theater.

Also, I’m looking forward to some strong female characters. I do like me some strong female characters, as my Netflix recommendations prove. The director of The Wiz Live!, Kenny Leon, says choices were made to make a statement “about the treatment of women” in this version of the show. Dorothy will have an expanded backstory that gives her more depth and direction, as will the female Wiz, a role traditionally cast with a male actor. Leon says, “All of the women in this story, they make their own decisions…men are not speaking for them, and that’s the way it should be anyway.” It is. I’m interested to see how it all plays out.

Alaina and I are going to be right here tonight, singing along and slinging snark and commentary. The liveblog will start at 8 p.m. EST. See you soon!


8:00 PM: We are so EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!


    Alaina: I love when Queen Latifah introduces things.

8:02 PM:

    Alaina: Real dogs and live theatre, I love it.

8:08 PM:

    KaeLyn: Stephanie Mills has still got it. Shit.
    Alaina: Camera in the shot #1

8:09 PM:

    Alaina: Spooky wind people! Wait this is my favorite part so far!
    KaeLyn: I wish they would stick with a camera for more than 1 second.
    KaeLyn: Reusing that Peter Pan Live! rig, I see.
    Alaina: Gotta get allll the use we can.

8:12 PM:

    Alaina: Everyone’s in skirts! I’m into this society.
    KaeLyn: MERCEDES!

    Alaina: I’m in love with her shoes!!
    Alaina: I want sushi with Amber Riley!
    Alaina: I was her when I was in The Wiz and I feel like we’re really connected
    KaeLyn: OMG you are soul twins

8:24 PM:

    KaeLyn: “Sometimes the most dangerous things are the most beautiful.” #femmetruth

8:27 PM:

    KaeLyn: Can you imagine if this was your acting debut?
    KaeLyn: I can’t even.

    KaeLyn: This was her first NYC audition ever.
    Alaina: Like she is KILLING it
    Alaina: For the entire United States of America
    KaeLyn: LIVE
    Alaina: In a really good high def foundation
    KaeLyn: She’s going to be like the next Fantasia
    KaeLyn: Yes, her skin looks great.
    KaeLyn: She could do Clean and Clear commercials next. Or take over for Katy Perry on Proactive duty.


8:30 PM: Did ya’ll know Queen Latifah played Dorothy in her 7th grade production of The Wiz? The Root put together a bunch of cool facts about The Wiz Live cast. Great for commercial break reading!

8:36 PM:

    Alaina: the nae nae
    Alaina: I love/hate popular culture
    KaeLyn: hahahahahaha when does the twerking start?
    KaeLyn: actually I’m ready for twerking
    KaeLyn: I hope there is twerking
    Alaina: PLEASEEE
    KaeLyn: What if Big Freedia made a cameo
    Alaina: WHAT IF
    KaeLyn: AZZ EVERYWHERE, that’s what
    Alaina: I just want every queer hip hop artist in NYC to make a cameo
    Alaina: MISANDRY

8:40 PM: If you’re not singing along right now, you’re doing it wrong.


8:41 PM Commercial break reading: NBC Black interview with Stephanie Mills on being a part of The Wiz, 1975 until now.

8:47 PM:

    Alaina: Neyo has a grill because he’s the tin man!
    Alaina: Also, this song is about the importance of lube.



8:55 PM:

    KaeLyn: I love everything so far. #noshade
    Alaina: Like, this is a huge improvement from the last two live shows
    Alaina: Those were good, but this is SO good!

9:03 PM:

    KaeLyn: Don’t give her those shoes?
    Alaina: This is not her mom!
    KaeLyn: Laser MONKEYS!!!
    Alaina: Spooky! This is actually terrifying!
    Alaina: She’s jumping in bedazzled heels!


9:09 PM:

    Alaina: BUT THESE DANCERS!!!!!
    Alaina: It’s like Beyonce Broadway

    Alaina: I want to be able to do this and also have someone do this to me
    Alaina: So my friends have identified “Thick Poppy” and “Pregnant Poppy”
    Alaina: Bodies of all shapes and sizes!


9:11 PM

    KaeLyn: Is there really a Wicked ad during this? so meta
    KaeLyn: Maybe for all those mad white people
    KaeLyn: They can go see Wicked

9:18 PM

    KaeLyn: Oh fuck yes
    Alaina: Vogue!
    Alaina: This is amazing

    Alaina: This is an afro futurist dream!
    KaeLyn: Does this mean that queers are the evolved class in Oz?
    Alaina: Seeing Black bodies on stage being flaunted is a really beautiful thing
    Alaina: And omg YES the queer elite

    KaeLyn: I love this. I could just watch this scene on repeat for the next hour and a half


9:17 PM




9:36 PM



9:45 PM

    Alaina: This feels like the Activism Song
    Alaina: Like, it’s part of the Wiz, but also relevant to life today lol
    KaeLyn: #OccupyWeGotIt

    KaeLyn: Makes sense—this is the new song
    KaeLyn: kumbafuckingya
    Alaina: “We’re all in this together.”


9:51 PM

    KaeLyn: “All Hail, Evilene!”
    KaeLyn: Bow down, bitches!
    Alaina: She is KILLING that outfit!

    KaeLyn: This is my favorite costume so far.
    Alaina: She did her one signature dance move already



9:57 PM

    Alaina: stilts!!
    Alaina: All the monkeys have on thongs


10:05 PM:

    Alaina: All this natural hair!
    KaeLyn: So much excellence. And how many dance steps have we seen so far? the nae nae , dab, vogueing, stepping, the peter pan…


    Alaina: Almost every dance from 2015 in that one!




10:13 PM Straddler, @hollisb, killing it in the comments!
Screenshot 2015-12-03 22.13.11
10:17 PM: YAAAAAAAAAAAAASSSSSS!!!!


10:18 PM:

    KaeLyn: “All these years later, hiding in the dark.” Yuuuup. #nationalcomingoutday




10:29 PM:

    KaeLyn: Why does she look like she’s going to have a walk-on on Law and Order now?
    KaeLyn: I mean, it’s fine
    Alaina: Right?
    Alaina: like
    Alaina: Yeezy 2016 line with a scarf from Kohls


10:31:

    KaeLyn: BLESS US
    Alaina: BLESS US ALL

    Alaina: Her crown is her hair!
    Alaina: “SHE IS BEAUTIFUL!”
    Alaina: Yes she is
    Alaina: This show is hers. She just stole the whole show


    KaeLyn: Remember when they wouldn’t let Suzanne be in the play on OITNB
    Alaina: And look at her now!
    KaeLyn: She got hers!


10:38:

    Alaina: It’s coming
    Alaina: It’s coming
    Alaina: I’m so ready

    KaeLyn: This girl is insanely good
    KaeLyn: She’s 18!
    Alaina: No way!!
    Alaina: What am i doing with my life
    KaeLyn: No I lied she’s 19
    Alaina: BUT STILL
    Alaina: She’s a baby! and is KILLING IT
    KaeLyn: OK Conflicting sources. She’s either 18 or 19. Either way, she is basically a CHILD.
    Alaina: OMG!
    Alaina: Toto came back!
    KaeLyn: I was wondering if we’d ever see Toto again

Final Thoughts:

    Alaina: I loved it! It was really beautiful.
    Alaina: It felt really important, too, in a way I didn’t know it would!
    Alaina: I love seeing Black actors working and all the focus on natural hair and Black styles…it was great!
    KaeLyn: I agree! Every bullshit argument about not being able to find enough Black talent for more diverse casting was just blown out of the water. It was excellence in every way. It was so real.
    KaeLyn: I cried three times.
    KaeLyn: I am just so happy that families all over the US watched this tonight, that kids saw this. And there was such a diversity of bodies and people and they didn’t shy away from gender-bending or frank sexuality and it felt so damn good.
    KaeLyn: Like, TV could be this way if we wanted it, if we really, really wanted it.
    Alaina: Tonight was really important. Everything is so sad all the time, and sometimes it’s important to just see black people being excellent in an excellent musical.



What did ya’ll think? Put it in the comments!

KaeLyn is a 35-year-old (femme)nist activist, word nerd, and queer mama. You can typically find her binge-watching TV, over-caffeinating herself, standing somewhere with a mic or a sign in her hand, eating carbs, or just generally doing too many things at once. She lives in Rochester, NY with her spouse, a baby T. rex, a xenophobic cat, and a rascally rabbit. You can buy her debut book, Girls Resist! A Guide to Activism, Leadership, and Starting a Revolution if you want to, if you feel like it, if that's a thing that interests you or whatever.

KaeLyn has written 196 articles for us.

66 Comments

  1. POGOSTILTS

    I still think that those are the coolest costume accessory to ever grace theater. Like I was super impressed when I saw the (very short-lived) Lord of the Rings live show as a kid and I am still impressed.

  2. After those first two live musical disasters, I had low hopes. THIS is how you do it! Just goes to show, don’t water it down and make it bland — attempts to appeal to everyone end up appealing to no one. They used legitimate triple threats in this instead of pop/tv stars and anchored it to someone brand new, and let it KEEP its personality (and then some!) instead of trying to smooth everything out of it.

    Glad this one’s on my DVR. It’ll stay there for a while!

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