The Wiz Live!, a live TV remake of the 1975 Broadway musical inspired by The Wizard of Oz, premiered on NBC Thursday night to largely positive reviews.

The Wiz Live! Reviews

The Wiz, a modernized take on the beloved story that features an all-black cast, is set in a New York City-like Oz. NBC’s live musical had a lot to live up to. Not only was The Wiz a Broadway hit with Stephanie Mills as Dorothy, it was also made into a feature film three years later with Diana Ross playing the lead and Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow.

Newcomer Shanice Williams filled the iconic role of Dorothy in The Wiz Live!. She was surrounded by a swell of singing and acting talent Thursday night, with a cast that included Queen Latifah (The Wiz) Ne-Yo (the Tinman), Mary J Blige, (Evillene, Wicked Witch of the West), Common (Bouncer) Amber Riley (Addaperle, the Good Witch), Uzo Aduba (Glinda the Good Witch), Elijay Kelley (the Scarecrow), David Allen Grier (the Cowardly Lion) and Mills (Auntie Em).

Expectations were low for The Wiz Live! – the third live musical in so many years that NBC has tried to put on. It was predicted that like the Sound of Music and Peter Pan, The Wiz would be a disappointment in the live TV format – even with its roster of talent. However, after the nearly three hours of runtime, most critics were forced to admit that NBC had succeeded with The Wiz Live!.

“We’re in another watershed in which there are dozens of black people, who also feel free, creating television and appearing on it. That’s the version of “The Wiz” that NBC aired on Thursday — a balmy celebration of what should be the natural order of things: black America, unoppressed. If not on the streets, then at least on TV. Of course, black lives matter. And so does black entertainment.” – Wesley Morris, The New York Times

““The Wiz” is probably also the best production NBC has put out, despite itchy fingers lining up to live tweet the entire affair. In the end, those hate-watchers had little to complain about other than occasional uneven camera angles, a missing Toto and the long three-hour running time; strong performances, fun dialogue and dazzling numbers rounded out an overall solid outing this time around. This cast members didn’t do a remake — they made something classic into their own.” – Amber Dowling, The Wrap

“Unlike NBC’s previous musical experiments, it’s likely that The Wiz Live! will actually live on in replays and on DVD as audiences try to notice new details, re-experience adored numbers and not have to pause every five minutes for commercials. The big loser? Fox, which announced and cast and scheduled Grease Live! when it only had to top Sound of Music and Peter Pan. Well, the bar is raised.” – Daniel Feinberg, The Hollywood Reporter

“When Stephanie Mills roared her way through ‘The Feeling We Once Had,’ it was hard to believe such a massive voice came out of such a tiny woman. As the Good Witch of the North, Amber Riley hit notes on ‘He’s the Wiz’ that practically required her to open her mouth wide enough for us to see her molars. Ne-Yo earned all the feels with his smoldering version of ‘What Would I Do If I Could Feel'[…] Best of all, Mary J. Blige growled the wicked gospel of “Don’t Nobody Bring Me No Bad News.” Everyone served as a good reminder that, after the aerial dance numbers of Peter Pan Live! and the elaborate sets of The Sound of Music Live!, no flashy TV musical gimmicks can match the power of raw talent.” – Melissa Maerz, Entertainment Weekly

NBC will air an encore of The Wiz Live! Saturday, Dec. 19.

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