The Wiz Live! movie full length review - Great job
I know the story from the 1939 movie--my favorite of all time--and a beautifully illustrated book. I have never seen a version of this story, where the cast is black and Dorothy is trying to return to Omaha, not Kansas.
Or was she? I don't know what was invented for this production, and I didn't see the "Making Of" special until afterward. All I know is the crows were in the Scarecrow's big number. I do know some of the language used here could not have been in any of the 1970s versions, since those words didn't have those meanings way back then.
The first two live NBC productions had their problems. Until I read or heard other opinions, I didn't think anything was wrong with Carrie two years ago, except the other cast members were more talented than she was. Last year, there was one truly dismal performance and one uneven performance among the leads. This year, NBC had no weak links and, for the first time, the lead actress was fantastic. And she was a newcomer!
Elijah Kelley is quite a dancer. Could Michael Jackson have done quite as well way back then? Perhaps. I've never seen him in the role. I do know Jackson had that kind of talent in the 80s.
In the "Making Of" special, Ne-Yo is said to have delivered his lines with heart. That's certainly true.
Bad Principal to Bad Teacher had a Bad Series, in the eyes of most viewers, but I liked his show. But because others didn't agree with me, he was available to be a great Lion.
Common is anything but common. The Bouncer of Emerald City stands out and becomes a truly memorable character.
The original Dorothy is now Auntie Em, and very good too. Quite stern but loving, as she has to be. I'm not clear on whether Stephanie Mills played her sister, who tempted Dorothy in Oz, or who made Dorothy see her. This was something new to either this specific production or to the black version. Anyway, Mills is good in both roles if that is her.
When I saw the Good Witch, I saw a great if quirky character and did not see Mercedes from "Glee". In the "Making Of" special I immediately recognized her.
The Wiz is great too, in different ways. I've never seen a version where the group saw the actual person before that one scene, but what they did see at first was a flamboyant, confident and demanding ruler. Queen Latifah is great there and, of course, later. If you don't know the story, I won't give it away, but the later scenes are quite effective.
The Wicked Witch has a less prominent role here than in the 1939 movie. Mary J. Blige is deliciously evil and even more so than her ABC counterpart, but not quite on the level of Margaret Hamilton or ABC's most evil witch of all.
And then there is a fourth witch, another good witch. She is kind and less off-the-wall than the other one. Not in the 1939 movie, but presented in a different way in the book.
I'm not sure what the purpose was in having the farm hands, since they weren't in the original book and no mention is made of Dorothy thinking they were familiar either in Oz or later. I was wondering how they could get out of makeup to do the finale from the 1939 movie, but that's not what happened. Anyway, there is no Uncle Henry, so running a farm on her would have been quite a challenge for Em and Dorothy alone. The farm hands add something at the beginning.
I mentioned no weak links. As in the 1939 movie, everyone who has a line delivers it well, whether it is one line or many. Lots of other quirky characters add something. Several Munchkins and a couple of employees of the Wicked Witch are included. And the crows are very "Street".
The music is great even if it isn't entirely my taste, but I couldn't help but like the Scarecrow's number, which isn't quite disco but is the style that became disco back in the 70s. Some of the music is good to me, and some is good only to those who have that particular taste in music, which I don't.
And the dancers are very talented. Once again, not necessarily what I would like, but it is a fantastic production.
Visual effects are pretty spectacular as well. I learned a lot more when I saw the "Making Of" special, but so much of what goes on in the background is so real. I only saw one wire supporting a character who was up in the air.
Family friendly? A little less so than the 1939 movie, in which some the flying monkeys scared some kids. This one is not quite as scary, but does have three curse words, one for each hour, and one particularly bad one.
The best yet? Maybe. NBC should keep doing this.