A couple of months back, we spent some time easing on down the road and talked about NBC’s The Wiz Live production, coming to your TV sets this December. Now, official photos have been released, and we can finally get our first look at Dorothy (newcomer Shanice Williams) and her pals (David Allan Grier, Ne-Yo, and Elijah Kelly.)
Compared to most NBC productions, this is one of the better costume jobs I’ve seen, but it is not without its problems.
I’m assuming that this rendition of The Wiz starts out in the modern day, or maybe its 2003, since that mini-skirt and black top outfit is definitely right out of a dated Delia’s catalog. And why is she not in blue? Isn’t that a tradition of the character at this point? Listen, if Diana Ross was wearing blue in the movie, I expect some sort of shade in this incarnation.
Then there’s the Tin-Man, who will be played by Ne-Yo. As one of my friends pointed out, it unfortunately seems he is suffering from an awkward costume switch with a Times Square cleaning guy. But maybe that choice is on purpose, since the look of Oz in most productions is inspired by New York City. The effort in the reference is appreciated, but the result is less than stellar.
The two characters that are easily the most impressive are The Cowardly Lion (David Allan Grier) and The Scarecrow (Elijah Kelly), who, in my opinion, exceed the original film version’s renditions of the characters by a long shot. Whoever was hired to do the make up on this production needs a huge pat on the back, since both of these guys (along with Ne-Yo) look unbelievable, especially in these close ups. The detail is truly stunning.
One of my biggest issues with the original movie costume for The Cowardly Lion was how it looked absolutely fake. You could see the two pieces that the actor was zipped into, and it ruined the magic of the character. Here, it seems that issue has been fixed, or at least, that random vest (which I can’t even begin to try to explain why it exists) distracts you from that possible problem.
As for the Scarecrow, I am truly impressed. First off, the casting of Elijah Kelly is spot on. Though I picked Leslie Odom Jr. in my dreamcast post, Kelly was definitely my second pick for the role. Second, that costume is too perfect for words. From the boots to the jacket and pants combo, there is a certain punk rock flair, and big departure from MJ’s Scarecrow (which is adorable, but definitely not as unique as this rendition.)
Though not a complete home run, NBC’s The Wiz LIVE seems to be heading in a much more optimistic direction than Peter Pan was this time last year. Bravo to NBC for really pulling out the stops when it came to the casting of this production, as none of these selections feel the least bit weird or out of sort. I’m really interested to see how the actual broadcast pans out, because if things look this good so early on, The Wiz might be a night to remember.
The Wiz LIVE airs December 3rd at 8/7PMc on NBC