“The Wiz” Proves That Live Television Events Don’t Have To Be Hate-Watched

If you tuned in last night to watch the live TV production of “The Wiz with your Twitter fingers ready to take down a disaster, I’m sorry you were disappointed. Unlike the disastrous “Sound Of Music Live” and last year’s hilariously awful “Peter Pan,” “The Wiz” was a revelation.

Look what happens when someone actually puts some real money, effort and care into making something that’s worthy of being called a live television event. Look what happens when you cast people that make sense for their roles (mostly — Ne-Yo, sir, that accent), and then let them run all over that stage. Look what happens when you get a good choreographer and spend some money on sets and costumes. Watching “The Wiz” last night was like watching NBC apologize for the Lost Boys, Carrie Underwood and Alison Williams in real time.

What worked for me? Just about everything, really. Minus some weird pacing issues and the decided lack of a studio audience which would have really and truly improved the performances, the show was a pleasure to watch. Everyone seemed happy to be there. No one was phoning it in. Stephanie Mills — the original Dorothy in the Broadway production — made me cry, or something close to it. So did Uzo Aruba, descending from the heavens in that dress.


Near the end of a week that comes at the end of a year that has felt so terribly shitty for so many reasons, “The Wiz” was a nice reminder that sometimes people can make beautiful things. Here are some of the best — and a few of the worst — moments.

Shanice Williams is a beautiful angel who can sing forever. Finding Shanice Williams for the role of Dorothy took a national search, and this is the first thing she’d ever auditioned for. She killed it. All of it. Watch this:

Everyone looked so goddamn beautiful. 


Mary J. Blige’s Evilene looked like a steampunk queen wrapped in LED lights and ethernet cables, but it still worked. Dorothy’s little silver bedazzled jazz shoe update to the usual ruby slippers worked for me. But whatever it is they did to Elijah Kelley’s face as the scarecrow is an abomination, he looked like he was wearing a horrifying skin mask made of discarded footballs. Despite this misstep, everyone else looked flawless. Someone contoured Queen Latifah’s face with metallic green and the lipstick on every man, woman and munchkin was an inspiration.


Club Emerald City


Fatima Robinson has choreographed for just about everyone from Michael Jackson to Aaliyah, and she outdid herself with the dance numbers in “The Wiz.” She turned the Emerald City into a ball and let Ne-Yo dab. I also spotted a nae-nae.

Not all that glitters is gold, or emerald, or whatever. There were a few minor fumbles. Like, where was Toto!? Also, the commercial breaks felt ill-timed and also jarring, as did the fact that after barn-burners like “Brand New Day” and “Home,” there was just … silence. Live television is a feat, but half the pleasure of watching a musical is hearing (and partaking in) the crazed applause after a number that brings the house down. Lessons for next year, dudes. Your move, Fox and the weird star-studded cast of “Grease”!