My love for Broadway musicals began when I was introduced to The Wiz at the tender age of 3 years old. My parents saw the original production (with Stephanie Mills as Dorothy) on stage in New York and brought the soundtrack (on wax) home. They played it constantly. A year or so later, I got to see it on stage myself and was forever changed.
The original Wiz was ahead of it’s time… and sadly the original version did not last long enough on Broadway (etc) to be immortalized and engraved as beloved stage classics like Cats, Les Miserables, or Phantom of the Opera. The vast majority of humans know that they were plays before they were movies. But not The Wiz. Until last Thursday night, common knowledge of The Wiz’s existence began and ended with the movie version starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. For those of us not so common, that notion makes us cringe.
Nobody knows that The Wiz won 7 Tony awards in 1975… including BEST MUSICAL! Nobody knows that it launched the careers of Stephanie Mills, Ted Ross, and Mabel King (look them up if you don’t know who they are!) Nobody knows that Geoffrey Holder was the director, choreographer, and costume designer for the original production AND received Tonys for it! Hows that for “crisp and clean with no caffeine… ah ah ah ah.” But ya’ll wanna give the movie all the glory, right?
Needless to say… I went into this with an extremely biased and skeptical eye. Yes, I was poised and ready to rip this production a new one if they did ANYTHING to further taint the original legacy of this award winning body of work (because frankly… the movie [with the exception of Michael Jackson as the scarecrow] destroyed it enough, in my humble opinion).
But I have to admit… NBC did a pretty good job. They blended what us old school Broadway snobs loved about the original with the aspects that most loved about the movie and sprinkled a little bit of new school swagger on it for the younger generation to appreciate and be entertained. It wasn’t spectacular… again, I am a snob so I don’t think that it would have been for me no matter what. But for it being on television with commercial breaks, etc. it was good.
I will say this… the costumes were amazing! And the unexpected sounds that came out of Uzo Aduba? MY GOD! I mean… where the hell did THAT come from? And when can we get more? She is now THE most versatile actor in the universe after that ridiculously outstanding performance!
So all in all, not a bad gig, NBC. You successfully achieved what I believe you set out to do.