TV Review: ‘The Wiz Live!’

The Wiz Live! Review NBC
Courtesy of NBC

That 1975 Tony award notwithstanding, “The Wiz” isn’t among the greatest of musicals, but practically speaking, it was certainly a shrewd choice for NBC’s third annual live extravaganza: Not only is it a family project, but its star-studded African-American cast created the prospect of attracting demographics that might have passed on the more-grounded-than-hoped-for “Peter Pan.” Graced with fitful acrobatics courtesy of Cirque Du Soleil, the production exploded with color and impressive vocal performances. Yet the producers still haven’t fully overcome the somewhat ironic challenge of how to make these live presentations consistently exhibit sparks of life.

Casting an unknown in the central role, as opposed to going with marquee leads, appeared to mitigate some of the live snark factor, and also offered a welcome sense of discovery. In terms of pipes, Shanice Williams more than held her own as Dorothy – no small feat, alongside the likes of Mary J. Blige, Amber Riley and Stephanie Mills (the star of the original Broadway production).

The network also shortened the duration by a helpful 15 minutes (frankly, 30 would have been even better), with the three-hour length having helped weigh down “Peter Pan.” That said, those bloated five-minute commercial pods throughout the telecast still made it such that the real way to enjoy “The Wiz Live!” was to watch it as “The Wiz, DVR-ed!”

There was obviously a lot to look at in terms of sheer spectacle, from the elaborate dance numbers to the occasionally surreal costumes. The Cirque connection, however, felt overblown, given its relatively modest contribution in terms of wires and stunts.

There were even a few modern additions, such as a reference to Eddie Murphy, doubtless designed to make it all feel more contemporary. But what still hasn’t been figured out yet, for this more jaded age, is how to replicate the live experience one enjoys when seeing theater through the distance-creating prism of TV. And while the “live” label should foster a sense of risk, these musicals have been so polished that the prospect of any significant glitches or stumbles appears slim at best.

As a consequence, the show dutifully went through the paces – assembling the Scarecrow (Elijah Kelley), Tin Man (Ne-Yo) and Cowardly Lion (David Alan Grier) – as part of Dorothy’s rather uneventful trip to the Emerald City. To its credit, “The Wiz” did yield occasional moments that managed to achieve genuine liftoff, from Williams belting out “Be a Lion” to the rousing rendition of the celebratory “A Brand New Day,” arguably the most show-stopping (and except for “Ease on Down the Road,” familiar) tune.

In the broad strokes, NBC’s commitment to this form is admirable, particularly for the vast swaths of the country that never actually venture near Broadway. Granted, the network might not ever replicate the alpine numbers “The Sound of Music” delivered – such novelties have a way of wearing off, especially with others getting in on the action – but there ought to be a place for watch-with-the-family events, especially as a prelude to the holidays.

Grading on a curve, “The Wiz” ranks as the most satisfying of NBC’s three efforts – an accomplishment, since it’s hardly on a par with “The Sound of Music” on the honor roll of classic musicals. Yet for a story that begins with a house falling out of the sky, this third attempt to ease Broadway into primetime was again marked by a sense that, in this format, it’s very difficult to completely bring the house down.

TV Review: 'The Wiz Live!'

(Special; NBC, Thur. Dec. 3, 8 p.m.)

Production

Produced by Storyline Entertainment and Sony Pictures Television in association with Universal Television in association with Cirque Du Soleil Theatrical.

Crew

Executive producers, Craig Zadan, Neil Meron; supervising producer, Javier Winnik; producer, Donna Suchan Smeland; stage director, Kenny Leon; TV director, Matthew Diamond; book, William F. Brown; music/lyrics, Charlie Smalls; adapted from “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum; additional writing, Harvey Fierstein; choreographer, Fatima Robinson; music producer, Harvey Mason Jr.; music director, Stephen Oremus. 165 MIN.

Cast

Shanice Williams, David Alan Grier, Elijah Kelley, Ne-Yo, Mary J. Blige, Stephanie Mills, Queen Latifah, Uzo Aduba, Amber Riley, Ne-Yo, Common

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  1. john says:

    It was an embarrassment…

  2. `Richard W. says:

    Best musical I have ever seen. Or heard.

  3. Mya says:

    Show was really good, but I thought “live” meant the actors would perform in front of people?! It was very awkward and odd to not heard laughter at the funny lines or clapping! “Live” performances especially for musical and theatre productions electrify with the reaction of those watching and engaging in the experience. Super disappointed that this element was completely absent.

  4. I watched the Wiz from the beginning to the end, and it was spectacular and amazing. I enjoyed it through out. The entire cast performed excellent. It was so wonderful to just sit in the comfort of my home and be entertained, with such high level performers. I truly enjoyed the Wiz and would love to see it again.

  5. Jane Smith says:

    “The Wiz” was fantastic! All of the performances were so good. I can’t single any one out because I enjoyed it all. The singing and dancing was wonderful. If you think you are going to a Broadway performance when you watch television, think again. It is really unfair to compare the two types of entertainment. However, this performance was not lacking in any way and it only makes me want to see it on Broadway when it arrives.

  6. chris says:

    The WIz Live, sadly does not compare to the original Broadway production. NBC should have looked at the archived video of the original stage version and merely replicated it. Trying to “update” an iconic classic is never prudent, especially one that won seven Tony awards . Everything from NBC’s offering; the dull choreography, unfortunate costumes, “improved” orchestrations and re-worked book fell short. Even NBC’s logo design is a dismal mess compared to the stylish design that once graced the marquee of the Majestic Theater. The only valuable component in NBC’s version is Stephanie Mills herself.

  7. Tim Milne says:

    I don’t know if there is or has been a Broadway version of this musical…I haven’t seen it but I have seen the movie several times. I’m a huge fan. I sat down and started to watch and was immediately turned off by the way it didn’t stay true to the original story line. Dorthy in the Wiz didn’t live on a farm she lived in the Bronx. She didn’t get to Oz in a twister… it was a blizzard that transported she and Toto to the enchanted world of Oz. I don’t know how many things were different because I changed the station at that point. Maybe at some point I’ll give it a watch just to see how many things were different but for now I’m going to watch the real Wiz and it’s spectacular score and acting

    • TMartina says:

      The 2015 television version of ‘The Wiz seemed to have combined bits of the original movie -‘The Wizard of Oz’, the Broadway musical version (1974) ‘The Wiz’ (which I did not see) and the movie ‘The Wiz’ (1978) . There is also the original book, ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ by L. Frank Baum. The book, original movie and the 2015 live movie version begin in Kansas on Aunt Em’s farm. The 1978 movie begins in Harlem, NY and Dorothy is an adult.

    • orukal says:

      The 1975 Broadway production won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

      • TMartina says:

        I have loved all three versions that I’ve seen: the original movie (scary lol), The Wiz Movie (fantastic and original – I loved the factory scene and Lena Horne’s song at the end – major cry for me) and this new version (just fantastic, beautiful and creative ! Just wonderful, the new Dorothy was sweet and delightful and so good to see the the lovely and talented Stephanie Mills as Auntie em)

      • I have watched the Wiz of Oz with Diana Ross and Michael Jackson, and I loved that and had found it very entertaining. I also loved the new Wiz and found it very entertaining and wonderful. I love them both. 😄

  8. Gregory Santana says:

    I watch it on Hulu & it was super. 3 ads limit & properly space made the production delightful & fulfilling.
    The Production was super. I did not hear or see any overblown promotion before seeing the show. Only date & time. Therefore, I was under no expectations other than performance, which were exceeded. If Hulu had ratings, it would be 5 star in our household. Thank you all involved, job well done. Thank you NBC & Hulu for allowing me to see it on my own time choice.

  9. Drea Courtney says:

    Kudos to newcomer Shanice Williams. She certainly has a future in music. Strangely lackluster performances from usually my favorites Queen Latifah, and Common. Very impressed with the Scarecrow (who danced his but off), Tin Man, and The Lion. But hated The Lion’s costume. Needed to have more of Stephanie Mills’ voice as Auntie Em. Loved all the Witches (especially the blue one), the Munchkins the Crows, and Flying Monkeys. It was a decent family musical but not great!

  10. Tony says:

    Well all I can say that as a lifelong Chicago Bears fan my plan for the evening was to watch the Green Bay – Detroit football game. I just happen to turn to NBC when the show first came on. One look at Ms Williams and could not take my eyes off of her. The show was just a charm and it was the most enjoyable TV show I have seen in a long time. Bravo!

  11. Frank says:

    What if there such an ani black sentiment with older white guys like this critic ?

  12. Tangie Seay says:

    I don’t know what you were watching. The Wiz Live was the best thing I’ve ever seen on television. The acting, singing, dancing, costumes, makeup, and set were AMAZING!

  13. cha says:

    What happened to toto?

  14. Missie says:

    29th Tony Awards – Best Musical
    (winner) The Wiz
    (other nominees) Mack & Mabel (8 weeks), The Lieutenant (9 performances), Shenandoah
    I guess the people who vote for the Tony Awards disagree with Mr. drama critic.

    I can’t believe that he’s complaining that nobody flubbed their lines or tripped over the lion’s tail. Sorry, if I go to a professional play I expect professional results. That’s what I saw last night, professionals. A competent review, not so much.

    • orukal says:

      Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and while I may agree or disagree with with you and/or “Mr. Drama Critic”, the very first thing mentioned in the article is his acknowledgement of The Wiz’ Tony Award win.

  15. Antonio Valadez says:

    I was really looking forward to this live stage performance when I heard it announced. Being part of a production of The Wiz in my younger years is still a fond memory. As is the film version of The Wiz. I simply love the musical. Unfortunately, with this presentation, I was disappointed. I can’t pick out specific reasons as to why I didn’t like this version, but suffice to say that I made it through about 2 hours and I just couldn’t finish it. I simply got bored. I felt that the musical numbers were great, the costumes were great, but there was something missing. The only thing that I could guess was that it felt too much to me what it actually was: A televised stage performance. I feel that if I were to see this show live and on stage, I’d probably love it, but not this televised version. Please understand that we’re a musical-loving family, but these live shows including The Sound of Music (a top 5 favorite of my family) and Peter Pan (My wife is named after Wendy Darling) both left me hoping for better. In fact, we had missed the televised version of Peter Pan, so my wife bought the DVD. I’m not sure how far we made it though, but we still haven’t finished it because of our disappointment. A lot have thoroughly enjoyed these musicals televised live, and I’m glad for them. They have just failed to reach me.

  16. Mary says:

    The Best! The Best! The entire cast was outstanding. What an awesome performance! Little Shanie played that role! . I loved every minute…so positive, and spirit-filled. Hats off
    to this wonderful production, which is deserving of the Blessings & successes to follow!

  17. Amani says:

    You lost me at “The Whiz isn’t among the greatest of musicals”. Your credibility died.

  18. Sharon says:

    I personally loved the production. It was fun and the costumes were amazing. I thought that Shanice Williams is as cute as a button and has an absolutely beautiful voice. I hope that she takes the negative critiques in stride and realizes that people who can’t do often criticize those who can. To Shanice, I say GO Girl! You have a bright future. I particularly enjoyed the updated choreography. It was refreshing.

  19. Sean says:

    Wow. This critic really didn’t like this show. Then again, he probably never seen the actual Broadway play, starring Stephanie Mills. Brian Lowry sounded a little biter. I think you should check it for yourself and not go by what some “critic” has to say about it. Because, it is usually their opinion of what “they” thought.

    • orukal says:

      I see your intent, Sean, but this review wasn’t of the “actual Broadway play, starring Stephanie Mills.” This was about last nights live presentation.

  20. Karen says:

    EXCELLENT PRODUCTION AND THE CAST WERE AMAZING!!!!! No a lot of foul language, however I was watching it with my young children. Their comments related to more adults which is good but I think my children missed the point that she was actually “dreaming”. AND, finally please allow Stephanie Mills to sing home together with Vanae Pate, it would have been much more meaning and would have paid tribute to Stephanie who will always be in our minds “the original black Dorothy”. Again, EXCELLENT!

  21. Frances says:

    The Dayton Performance at the Sinclair College November 9 through the 17 I believe it was 14 shows Live! Vanae Pate as Dorothy and Samantha Wright Norman as Evilleen. They and the entire cast were phenomenal! I would say more heart felt than the one that was aired December 3, 2015. The cast did a good job, but in all was not felt from the heart. You can put a actor on stage to perform a part… but a star is felt I think they were acting and not shining. Please get these folk to perform the “WIZ” it will take you to OZ and back safely! :)

  22. Dorothy in “Wiz Live!” was unlike Judy Garland she was classless! Who bought Dorothy’s outfit?!! At times, Dorothy seemed unsure of her lines. In “The Wiz Live!” Dorothy is ugly, lap–legged and kept pausing . . . very tasteless, senseless, stupid reproduction of Judy Garland. Dorothy’s outfit (short-mini plaid skirt with Happy Day’s Fonzie jacket) did not sync with the times as her cast members (lion, tinman and scarecrow) dressed in 1930s – 1950s customs and she looked like a Stripper–hoochie searching for her pot of gold while encountering pimps and more street walkers. Wiz Live sucked . . .I interpreted the show as a lost, promiscuous girl wondering down the yellow-brick road just to encounter more of her kind (pimps, street-hookers and prostitutes) and finally she is sent home with those UGLY Silver outdated shoes which did not coincide with the era of fantasy. I will always LOVE the original “Wizard of OZ!”

    • What the actual ____? “Stripper hoochie”? Pimps? Street walkers? What about this gave ANY idea of promiscuity?

      And, FYI, in the ORIGINAL original (aka the BOOK), the slippers WERE silver.

    • L Stockton says:

      Your ignorance about the origin of The Wiz is exactly why we need to have more diverse representations of works that feature people of color and themes that are relevant to more than the white folks in America. The Wiz is not a recreation of The Wizard of Oz—it is its own triumphant work that catapults it beyond the work of Frank Baum. And I love the Wizard of Oz—for what it is—sheer entertainment. But I love this version of the The Wiz (as well as the Broadway, Tony-winning musical and the film release) for the import it brings to the Black Arts Movement. You might do some research so that you don’t remain in ignorance your entire life.

      • Busi Peters says:

        Variety’s Brian Lowey critic of The WIZ makes him an ASS HOLE and a WHOLE ASS and displays
        racism at it’s best. Stupid ass the point of The WIZ is not about comparing it to a musical like The Sound of Music which culturally is BORING to people of African descent hence why THE WIZ was made, a tongue and cheek on the Caucasian version of the The Wizard of OZ. So, when a Broadway play that is made in 1975 wins seven Tony Awards, was made into a movie that became a Cult Classic, then on Broadway again a few years ago, and now The NBC version the critic just sounds like a racist cracker that continues to try to fit the energy and spirit and color of African people who are circular energetically into a European linear box. And that will never FIT!! So screw you and your opinion that stated “That 1975 Tony award notwithstanding, “The Wiz” isn’t among the greatest of musicals, but practically speaking, it was certainly a shrewd choice for NBC’s third annual live extravaganza:.” Which is a LIE since there were SEVEN Tony Awards, this review started off dissing the play because the man who wrote KNOWS nothing about African descent culture and would never really appreciate it anyway, and just sounds like a man with the Wonder Woman lasso who is forced to tell the truth with the nicer critique at the end.

      • orukal says:

        But the basic story follows more than just the major theme, it contains a vast majority of the same characters, plot devices, and story-line as The Wizard of Oz. I understand what you’re trying to say, but in order to achieve those “nods to the Black Arts Movement and the relevant themes and cultural mores [sic] of the Black community” the platform of 1939s The Wizard of Oz was used and then…recreated. I’m not trying to put down The Wiz as, “Well, they only copied The Wizard of Oz so the Black community could have their own version.” Not in the least. The Wiz can be as powerful as it is entertaining and I absolutely love the theatrical version (I’m never had the opportunity to watch a stage version, although I have performed in one.) One does not need to do any research other than watching the two productions to realize that one derived from the other. It really is that simple.

      • Antonio Valadez says:

        With all due respect, L Stockton, The Wiz is absolutely a recreation of The Wizard of Oz. To say otherwise is somewhat confusing to me.

      • L Stockton says:

        You need to do some research before you respond to me again. I know of what I speak regarding The Wiz.

      • L Stockton says:

        While the basic story follows the major theme of the Wizard of Oz, it is a much more complex and pro-Black nod to the Black Arts Movement and the relevant themes and cultural mores of the Black community. Do some research so you will know about which you speak.

        On Sat, Dec 5, 2015 at 12:44 PM, Variety wrote:

        > Antonio Valadez commented: “With all due respect, L Stockton, The Wiz is > absolutely a recreation of The Wizard of Oz. To say otherwise is somewhat > confusing to me.”

    • goodwillchic says:

      This is not the original Wizard of Oz. It is an update from the broadway production of The Wiz. That being said, again for you, I feel great sympathy for you because you sound angry and bitter. There is so much beauty and diversity in the world around you I pray that you learn to enjoy all there is before it is too late. Nameste.

    • Hmm…you must have never seen or heard of the Wiz and why it was created in 1975 to fill the unbelievable void of the lack of minorities on Broadway. That said, I understand your love for the original, but the fact is this production has never tried to recreate the Dorothy from 1938 Kansas ever! Have you even seen the movie? Probably not. If you based your review on the songs, the acting, the sets, and the choreography, then I would think that your review would be an in depth review of the content and not something like …I don’t know the childish spite (because that what it looks like). You can’t compare the two based on songs, or costumes because they were meant to be viewed in two totally different perspectives. So based on an independent analysis of the songs, the acting, the choreography on its own merits and not as a clone of the 1939 movie…what do you say?

    • Casandra says:

      Pimps, strippers, street walkers? You are projecting my dear. Self hatred is a terrible thing.

  23. PleaseMichellePlease says:

    i found the production to be outstanding. shanice did a wonderful job and her vocals were stellar. really everyone involved needs to stand up and take a bow. brian lowery’s review is nothing more than cheap shots and innuendo. it really speaks to how far he had to reach when he started talking about the commercials. but as the saying goes, “haters gonna hate.”

  24. sbwinter2 says:

    I think one of the biggest problems with these productions is that instead of feeling like a well-produced, filmed theatrical performance (watch any Live from Lincoln Center), they feel like a TV show that happens to occur on a stage. The constant interruption of commercials is part of the problem, since it creates a TV-chapter structure that a play does not use. But the camera-work is also a problem. While well done, I felt like I was watching a TV show and not a Broadway show.

    That said, I enjoyed this production, but I am also familiar with the show. I wish they would have utilized more of what Cirque had to offer in a Broadway’s Pippin sort of way. The sets and costumes were great. This is a huge step in the right direction. They just need to make it feel more like theater.

  25. Leslie says:

    By what criteria do you measure the “greatness” of musicals? I find that most critics who begin their assessment of performances that have casts of color and represent stories and themes outside of their usually limited experience beyond the canon of theatrical performance (read: white, elitist, polite, politically correct) lack the credentials and skill to accurately gauge the “greatness” of those works. Cultural competence, professional and personal experience and exposure, coupled with an open mindset are all necessary to judge the worthiness of The Wiz and other performances that feature casts of color and showcase themes and storylines that portray aspects of world cultures. I’d challenge Mr. Lowry to explain his method of assessment so that the viewing audiences of the NBC production, the 1975 Broadway production, and the movie can deem his assessment worthy of our notice. We saw Black excellence and the world concurs with our assessment. We hope NBC and others take note—there is an audience for broader representations and audiences are demanding these portrayals.

  26. Snookums says:

    Absolutely Awesome, the cast was exceptional, Shanice, wow that little girl killed it with her vocals, gave me goose bumps

  27. sheeeeit says:

    Why not write a review of The Wiz Live that doesn’t compare it to “classic” Broadway shows? I thought this was a review of this production alone, not in comparison with NBC’s previous spectacular failures or actual Broadway shows? For a live TV performance, it was a wonderful performance with great acting and excellent casting. Kenny Leon could not help the commercial breaks (why even mention the commercials as a downside to the actual play?? C’mon!)

    • me says:

      You’ve never seen a play, movie, TV show, eaten a dinner, driven a car, or gone to a store – and compared it to similar plays, movies, TV shows, dinners, cars, or stores? That’s just plain nonsense.

      • sheeeeit says:

        Of course I have. What I’m saying is that if you’re going to compare two things, let it be a fair comparison. If I’m going to have a Starbucks latte, I’ll compare it to a Dunkin Donuts latte, for example. Not a home-brewed cup of coffee. That comparison wouldn’t be fair. One is not necessarily better than the other, and I might prefer one over the other due to personal tastes and what I consider a “good cup of coffee”, but I’m not going to act as though the rating criteria for what constitutes a good barrista-brewed $5 latte is the same as the criteria for a good cup of morning coffee from my Keurig. The Wiz and The Sound of Music are both musicals, sure, but they are cut from the same cloth. To overlook blatant dissimilarities because you want to force the comparison is lazy journalism, and biased to boot.

      • L Stockton says:

        This response is a false equivalency. What most people are aware of is that many Black productions (when time, attention, and support are given fully and freely) are compared to white productions and not allowed to stand alone as artistic pieces unto themselves. The standard of whiteness as pinnacle in America is not equitable given that the criteria for achieving success in the white spheres of influence were never meant to include people of color and works from those communities and thus they will always fall inferior to what is perceived as the golden ring. The examples for comparison that you gave are not equal in measure given that cars, meals, stores, etc. are not as heavily subjected to systemic and institutionalized racial discrimination.

      • Missie says:

        I can judge something without going on about how it’s better or worst than some other arbitrary thing. A professional critic ought to be able to assign a grade, not “grading on a curve”. That’s just condescending.

    • Leslie says:

      AMEN! His assessment smacks of institutional and structural racism. If it’s not part of what the majority culture deems as “worthy” of note, it is less than and not worthy of more than backhanded snark and measure against standards that were never meant to include our representations in the first place. His critique would hold more sway if he knew the thematic premise and theatrical import of The Wiz and its historical, sociological, and geo-politcal roots.

  28. Sean says:

    They SLAYED it! I LOVED LOVED LOVED EVERYONE & EVERYTHING about it. I can only IMAGINE seeing it LIVE on stage. WOW!

  29. JusMe says:

    I agree that nothing can replace LIVE Broadway viewing, but for people who will never have the opportunity of experiencing that, I think this helps. No, not perfect by any means, The Wiz was certainly the best of the three NBC efforts. Everyone is critiquing this like this particular production is an actual Broadway play… it’s not meant to be. It’s made for TV. While the endless commercials were truly exhausting, what can you do! I think these experiences help younger children the most to possibly be inspired to attend true Broadway plays instead of Spongebob movies exclusively. Just my two cents.

    • chris says:

      If you want to have television audiences capture LIVE Broadway viewing, merely tape the show at a theater with an audience. It’s certainly closer to Broadway than filming a musical intended for the stage on a television sound stage with no audience. Regardless, this production of The Wiz falls way short of the original production. To say it was disappointing is an understatement.

  30. Notes From The Inside says:

    Orchestrations by Casio. That 70s-inspired samba beat behind every track was wearing me out. This production was a mess. Right in line with the other live “events” these two have produced. Time to find some new producers for these things. They’re ruining worthy musicals.

    • JusMe says:

      It’s made for TV for heaven’s sake, it is NOT Broadway and can never be. View it as such. Compare it to the only two other productions of its form (and soon three others with the inclusion of Grease in January). It was good for what it was!

      • chris says:

        Because it is “made for TV” is the reason why The Wiz Live was a mess. You are correct to note it should be viewed as such, but this NBC production is ostensibly heading back to Broadway. Hence the difference JustMEsays. In this regard, it was terrible for what it was!

  31. Sound of music? Please!! This was an excellent production and play. I LOVE the Wiz! Growing up- an airing of the movie was treated like an event. We also loved watching The Wizard of Oz.
    I think this cast did an EXCELLENT job of bringing this classic back to life. KUDOS to the cast and production team. Congrats to Shanice, who is a wonderful job playing Dorothy, Common, Amber, Mary J, Queen Latifah, ALL the cast. And Kudo’s to NBC for airing this show live. Outstanding!!

  32. It was OK. What’s with the, no using the ruby slippers? I don’t get it. Black or white version everything else is exact except of the classic shoes? Queen Latifah was plain awful and miscast. So was the Scarecrow. The voguing scene was cute.

    • msjaxon says:

      The original shoes are SILVER! Making them ruby slippers in the first place is what wasn’t classic. The Wizard of Oz is based on a series of Novels.. The shoes are Silver.

  33. derrtyd39 says:

    I loved it haters are going to hate thats what they do good job to all the cast

  34. White people should not review black productions. It’s out of their league. Stick to loving the Sound of Music and Britney Spears.

    • Opinionmine says:

      Wow, I thought I wasn’t going to be totally surprised to see a racist comment in this mix, but I have to say you proved me wrong. Hopefully you were typing in jest. Theatre is to be made and enjoyed by and for people of all walks of life, creeds and colors. and there is nothing to guarantee that ALL people of a Caucasian skin tone like or enjoy SOUND OF MUSIC or and or Brittany Spears, lol. People of all colors, creeds, etc. do have the ability to think fro themselves you know.

    • Leslie says:

      Culturally incompetent white people shouldn’t review productions that focus on themes and portrayals of communities of color. There are a few white critics who have the chops to do it well. Brian Lowry isn’t one of them.

      • me says:

        Culturally incompetent posters shouldn’t tell other people on what topics they can and cannot have opinions. There are a few that can do that well. Leslie isn’t one of them.

      • L Stockton says:

        I wasn’t preventing anyone from have their say merely pointing out the glaringly obvious—Lowry isn’t qualified to assess Black theatrical production unless he gains more cultural competence than he displayed with this “critique”. I however do have that skill set and am happy to share it with you….for a fee. I get paid well for the cultural critique work I do.

    • Hu says:

      Racist comment

  35. Cranberry Simone says:

    This is a snide, condescending, poorly written, PETTY, and ridiculously awful review. “…these musicals have been so polished that the prospect of any significant glitches or stumbles appears slim at best.” Classic hater. “grading on a curve”? Hater supreme. And my favorite… “Notwithstanding the TONY AWARD you won for Best Musical, The Wiz isn’t the best musical” intergalactic hater!!! you sound like a bitter Ivy League reject yammering on about why it was affirmative action that blocked your acceptance and not your mediocre grades or banal college essay. Why did the Cirque connection feel overblown? Because you’re a hater. Here’s hoping there’s an empty stadium in LA where you can have several thousand seats.

    • BobC. says:

      Cranberry Simone, you seem a tad too testy over a review. Is it worth the hysteria? The name-calling? The childishness? He didn’t call your baby ugly. He had some complaints about the show. Take a pill and calm down.

    • me says:

      You seem to have missed the point entirely. Or are just ignorant. Saying that the chance of mistakes is slim is actually a positive comment, not negative. How anyone with over a 3rd grade reading comprehension level could miss that is astounding.

    • Leslie says:

      I bow to you! Your critique of his assessment gives me life! His limited experience outside the canon of Broadway theatrical performance (read: white, elitist, polite, politically correct) renders him incompetent to judge a work that showcases the Black communities themes and experiences.

    • sheeeeit says:

      Yes! His review read as though he was geared to dislike it from the start. Next time someone asks him to review a production of a play he doesn’t already love, he should just decline to write the review because it’s obvious from this one that he is unable to suspend his own biases to give fair reviews. It was an excellent show! Why mention the disappointment of no one messing up??

      • orukal says:

        If the requirement of who should write reviews for productions such as this should be that they “already love” the play, then aren’t you just trading one bias for another? One skewed review for another and therefore not “fair reviews”?

  36. K bob says:

    That was like The Sound of Crap, was just as bad if not worse, with Carrie Underwood!!

  37. Tom Torquemada says:

    Turned it off. Crap.

  38. annettjohnson says:

    Beautifully done…I would watch it again and again.

  39. Sandra says:

    I thought The Wiz Live was fantastic. A lot of people have complained about the commercials. Being a former drama student in high school many many years ago, my senior drama class put on a one act play with no scene changes. If you are changing scenes, you have to allow time for the stage crew to set up the stage. So the commercials are important when it is being broadcast live. Other people are thinking it should be like they typical stage play on Broadway. This show was done on television not the Broadway Stage. If it had been filmed, it would have taken us back to the old variety show television which would have been edited. A production done live is difficult for the actors and everyone involved. I think they done very well. Bravo.

  40. Your Pal Joe says:

    It’s just not the same without a fifty year old used-to-be playing the teen aged lead role. Don’t get me wrong; they both sucked big time, but the first one was blacksploitation and this one is just PC pathetic.

    • K bob says:

      I thought it was great!! And the idiots who have something bad to say are just jealous because it was that damn good!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Of course with this world today, with the me, me, mes and the I, I, I’s, anything that is good there is going to be the haters. Get a life joebob!!!!!!

  41. Beastlybill says:

    The casting, acting, sets and story were fine. For me the issue is the songs. There is not one great song in the bunch. Examine West Side Story, My Fair Lady or The Sound of Music…great musical compositions and outstanding lyrics. Sadly the songs here are high energy but easily forgettable. Several had the standard scream or screech that is not pleasing to the ear. Nice production but not my idea of what a truly great Broadwy Musical is all about. Possibly it is just me, a 66 year old retired white male. I love musicals but I doubt that I am the target audience for The Wiz. I do encourage NBC to keep trying. Also everyone to go see a play whether it be Broadway or a touring company. It is truly a great experience when seen live.

  42. Nanny Mo says:

    It was bad in 1975 and it is still bad now. Leave it to Hollywood to remake a bad show and think it will be better the second time. There’s a reason it’s called the wiz, it’s both cheesy and yellow.

  43. David says:

    I did not have high expectations. I was glad to be wrong! I thought it was outstanding. I love the idea of live musicals on TV. They should do this more often. Budgets don’t have to be over the top to make this happen. They should be produced the same way stage productions are produced..on one stage. And give the actors (and us) a live audience. We want to hear the live applause and see the curtain call. One thing that definitely needs to be done in the future is to change the way you show commercials during these productions. Multiple five-minute breaks do not work. Perhaps two or three longer intermissions would be much better. It is too distracting to keep going to commercials every ten minutes. I applaud NBC for making the effort and continuing to do this. Do it more often and do it even better. If there can be 20+ live award shows on a year, there can be the same number of live musicals (and yes, plays). And not all of them have to be G-rated either.

  44. Jean says:

    I loved the cast. The talent was amazing. Shanice is going on to greatness! The production was just about 2 hours….not three. Commercials and a 10:45 pm ending (just wish there was a ‘final bow’, so we could applaud at home!) put the production at the time for most Broadway musicals. The costumes were fantastic! Toto ‘missing’ for most of the production?? Who would want to see a possible ‘nature taking place’ on live TV??!!

  45. Leona says:

    I beg to differ with your opinion. I truly believe The Wiz is one of the Greatest Musicals. I enjoyed the live broadcast, but it did not radiate the energy of the Broadway production of the 1970s. There is a reason why one goes to the theater and watch the performance on stage, instead of watching it on the television.

  46. Andrew says:

    I absolutely loved this broadcast! The one and only thing missing was the live audience. If NBC gets wise, next year they’ll film at a location that can accommodate a live studio audience! Or better yet, film in an actual Broadway theater or someplace like it. A Live audience brings so much to the table not just for the people watching at home but for the actors performing as well!

    • alicat says:

      I thought this too while watching it. It really needs a live audience. The “pauses” where audience laughter or applause should be just felt awkward.

  47. Ebony Fire says:

    In my humble opinion, the most notable achievement of NBC’s production of “The Wiz Live” was that it further lowered the bar for televised musical theater, and for African American theater in general. I agree with the columnist’s honest & generous review for the most part. However, I think the production was mediocre at best. As indicated in his summation, “Grading on a curve”, “The Wiz Live” was a success. However, true success does not require the extra allowance of grading on a curve. True success is not mediocre, and mediocre is certainly NOT true success.

  48. Bo Klein says:

    Your review was mote than fair. No, it wasn’t a disaster. But there was the endless belting, the poorly balanced sound that let the orchestra overpower much of the vocals so that you missed so much of the lyrics. That doesn’t happen in the theater. A lot of tempos were out of whack – particularly EASE ON DOWN THE ROAD which should ease on down the stage. It was constantly rushed – easeondonederoad…..Mostly, I missed the lovely moments at the end. I can still hear Lena Horne’s heartbreaking BE TRUE TO YOURSELF.

  49. Laura Cronk says:

    I saw the original Broadway show in 1975. I loved it!! And this one did not disappoint! The young woman who played Dorothy was amazing! This review was unfair. Please NBC, continue to to perfect these live performances.

  50. Scott Overcash says:

    There’s a certain kind of energy needed for a presentation like this that is different than is found on a live stage or a recorded TV show. This was definitely the best effort and should help figure out where that energy comes from and how to put in on the screen on the night of the broadcast. Personally, I think a live audience would add some excitement. My two cents.

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