Former talk show host and actress Queen Latifah and songstress Mary J. Blige have signed on to join NBC’s live adaptation of the The Wiz, rolling out has confirmed. And they’re both taking on major roles.
Latifah is set to take on the iconic role of the Wiz, aka the mysterious and most powerful wizard who holds the keys to the Emerald City, but whose metamorphosis from ordinary to extraordinary is itself a hoax. She rose to her lofty position after being transported by accident to Oz in a hot air balloon during a snowstorm. Meanwhile, Blige will take on the role of Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West and ruler of the Winkies and the Winged Monkeys. She captures Dorothy and her friends to avenge the unintentional murder of her evil sister, Evvamean, and to get back the powerful silver slippers given to Dorothy by the Good Witch of the North.
From Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, the team that brought you “Smash,” “The Sound of Music Live!,” Oscar-winning “Chicago” and “Peter Pan Live!,” NBC’s latest live musical event; “The Wiz Live” has partnered with Cirque du Soleil and will become a Broadway revival in late 2016-2017.
“We are so happy reuniting with Latifah,” said Zadan and Meron, “We’ve been friends for a long time and we’ve had quite a lot of success together. To see her play the iconic role of the Wiz and make it her own is going to be one of the joys of producing this event.”
The Wiz is an adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls and a book from Brown. The cult classic first debuted in the U.S. in 1978 starring late pop icon Michael Jackson, Diana Ross and Lena Horne and won seven Tonys. The musical keeps in line with the story of The Wizard of Oz, but with an “African American/multicultural twist,” NBC said in a release.
Both Latifah and Blige have had a wealth of experience performing live in the past. Blige is a nine-time Grammy Award winner and began her acting career on “The Jamie Foxx Show” and has been featured on past hits such as “Entourage” and most recently “Empire” and “Black-ish.” She also co-starred in the Lifetime film “Betty and Coretta,” and the 2012 feature film Rock of Ages, while Latifah starred in 2002’s Chicago and 2007’s reboot of Hairspray. In other words, they should both do their roles justice. Will you be watching?