Special effects makeup artist Dave Elsey says he was “traumatized” by the movie “The Wizard of Oz” when he was a child — but in his view that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“If you go back in time and look at children’s literature like ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ some of those characters are incredibly grotesque and scary, (but) when you get to know them, you sort of love them,” he says.
This combination of fear and affection informed the artistry of Elsey and his wife, Lou Elsey, as they created the makeup for NBC’s “The Wiz Live!,” this year’s addition to the network’s holiday tradition of adapting a beloved musical for live TV. Airing Dec. 3, the production features Elijah Kelley’s Scarecrow with a face like a bag full of seeds and hair of twigs, Ne-Yo’s rusted and weathered metallic Tin Man, David Alan Grier’s hairy and menacing-eyed Cowardly Lion, and a heavily eyebrowed Queen Latifah as the Wiz herself.
“It’s very important to have their characters and their performances come through the makeup so that we don’t completely lose the actors,” says Lou Elsey. “Obviously, they’re heavily influenced by what’s done before, but it’s keeping that freshness in line with how the production looks and with Paul Tazewell’s costume designs.”