The Wiz Live!

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The Wiz Live!
Promotional poster
Based onThe Wiz
by William F. Brown
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
by L. Frank Baum
Written byHarvey Fierstein
Directed byKenny Leon
Matthew Diamond
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
Executive producersCraig Zadan
Neil Meron
Running time111 minutes
Production companiesUniversal Television
Sony Pictures Television
Storyline Entertainment
Original release
ReleaseDecember 3, 2015 (2015-12-03)

The Wiz Live! is an American television special that aired live on NBC on December 3, 2015.[1] Produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, it is a performance of a new adaptation of the 1975 Broadway musical The Wiz, a soul/R&B reinterpretation of L. Frank Baum's 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.[2] The broadcast is performed live from Grumman Studios in Bethpage, New York. This adaptation of the musical combines aspects of both the Broadway play and its 1978 film adaptation.[3]

Cast and characters[edit]



Pit voices were provided by Broadway Inspirational Voices.

Source: Broadway World[5]

Musical numbers[edit]

The list of musical numbers is taken from the actual broadcast and are in order as they appear in the broadcast and include the characters' names who perform the song.

All numbers composed by Charlie Smalls save for the following: "Tornado" is composed by Timothy Graphenreed and Harold Wheeler. "Emerald City Ballet (Psst)" is composed by Graphenreed and George Faison. "We Got It" is written by Ne-Yo, Elijah Kelley, Harvey Mason Jr, and Stephen Oremus.[6] "Everybody Rejoice/A Brand New Day" is written by Luther Vandross.



The production, a co-production between Universal Television and Cirque du Soleil Theatrical – who provided special acrobatic performers for the "Tornado", "You Can't Win", and "Funky Monkeys" sequences[7][8] – was a follow-up to NBC's live musical events, The Sound of Music Live! and Peter Pan Live!. Like the previous specials, The Wiz Live! was televised from Grumman Studios in Bethpage, New York.[9] The role of Dorothy was cast via an open audition on June 6, 2015. On August 5, it was announced on Today that Shanice Williams of New Jersey would fill the role in The Wiz Live!. Williams had co-starred in local productions of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown and West Side Story among others, and in 2014, was nominated for a Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award for best leading actress.[10]

The special was directed by Kenny Leon and adapted for television by Harvey Fierstein from the original musical's book by William F. Brown. Fatima Robinson was the program's choreographer, with Harvey Mason, Jr. and Stephen Oremus serving as the musical directors.[11] Songs from the original Broadway production were featured, with two exceptions: "You Can't Win", a song cut from the musical and first used in its 1978 feature film adaptation as sung by Michael Jackson, was used in place of the Scarecrow's key number "I Was Born on the Day Before Yesterday", and "We Got It",[6] a new song composed by Harvey Mason Jr., Stephen Oremus with stars Ne-Yo and Elijah Kelley, was performed as Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion began their journey to find and kill the Wicked Witch of the West.[2]

The Wiz Live! was the first live TV program in US history to contain audio description for blind or visually impaired viewers.[12]


The cost of a 30-second commercial during The Wiz ranged between $330,000 to $350,000, marking a drop from the $345,000 to $400,000 cost of ad time during Peter Pan Live!. The decrease in ad cost was attributed to the modest viewership of Peter Pan in comparison to The Sound of Music Live!, which an analyst felt was a result of the reduced novelty of the production in comparison to The Sound of Music. Reddi-wip served as a main sponsor of the presentation; Walmart, which served as a major sponsor of NBC's previous live musicals, declined to participate. NBC produced themed commercials to air throughout the special as part of the brand's "Share the Joy" campaign; one, which was timed to air after the corresponding scene in the musical, featured "A Brand New Day" being performed by students of the Excel Academy in Hyattsville, Maryland—a school which ConAgra Foods had donated money to in support of musical arts.[13][14][15][16][17]


Critical reception[edit]

The Wiz Live! received positive reviews from critics, who praised the acting and singing abilities of the cast and for being an improvement over the two previous live NBC musicals. On Rotten Tomatoes, the show has a 91% rating, based on 33 reviews, with an average rating of 8.8/10. The site's consensus states: "The Wiz Live! is several notches above NBC's other musical broadcasts thanks to bold performances and large-scale production pieces."[18] Metacritic reports a weighted average of 73 out of 100, based on 16 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[19]


The Wiz Live! was seen by 11.5 million viewers, with a 3.4 rating in the 18-49 demographic. Although higher than Peter Pan Live!, it trailed a Thursday Night Football game on CBS between the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers, which was seen by around 17 million.[20][21] Average household viewership was notably higher in markets with a large African-American population, such as Atlanta, Baltimore, Norfolk, Richmond, and Washington, D.C.[21] Nielsen also reported that the special produced the most social network interactions of any live television event in the past four years; there were three times as many Twitter postings related to The Wiz Live! than there were related to Peter Pan Live!.[21] NBC rebroadcast the special on December 19, 2015.[22] The rebroadcast was seen by 1.6 million viewers.[23]


Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
Art Directors Guild Awards Awards or Event Special Derek McLane Nominated [24]
Black Reel Awards Outstanding Television Documentary or Special Kenny Leon Won [25]
Outstanding Actress, TV Movie or Limited Series Shanice Williams Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actor, TV Movie or Limited Series David Alan Grier Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actress, TV Movie or Limited Series Mary J. Blige Nominated
Amber Riley Nominated
Costume Designers Guild Awards Outstanding Fantasy Television Series Paul Tazewell Nominated [26]
Critics' Choice Television Awards Best Movie Made for Television or Limited Series Nominated [27]
Best Actress in a Movie Made for Television or Limited Series Shanice Williams Nominated
Best Supporting Actor in a Movie Made for Television or Limited Series David Alan Grier Nominated
Ne-Yo Nominated
Best Supporting Actress in a Movie Made for Television or Limited Series Mary J. Blige Nominated
Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Movies for Television and Mini-Series Kenny Leon and Alec Rudzinski Nominated [28]
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special Won [29]
Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special David Alan Grier Won
Online Film & Television Association Awards Best Makeup/Hairstyling in a Non-Series Nominated [30]
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Costumes for a Variety, Nonfiction or Reality Programming Paul Tazewell, Rachel Attridge and Rory Powers Won [31]
Outstanding Hairstyling for a Multi-Camera Series or Special Charles G. LaPointe, Kevin Maybee, Elizabeth Printz and
Amanda Duffy
Outstanding Lighting Design/Lighting Direction for a Variety Special Allen Branton, Darren Langer, Kevin Lawson, Felix Peralta,
Eric Marchwinski and Kirk Miller
Outstanding Makeup for a Multi-Camera Series or Special (Non-Prosthetic) Cookie Jordan, Matiki Anoff, Debi Young, Stephanie McGee,
Bjorn Rehbein and Christine Domaniecki
Outstanding Production Design for a Variety, Nonfiction, Event or Award Special Derek McLane, Erica Hemminger and Mike Pilipski Nominated
Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video Control for a Limited Series, Movie or a Special Bob Muller, Emmett Loughran, Miguel Armstrong, Rob Balton,
Manny Gutierrez, Shaun Harkins, Jeff Latonero, Jay Millard,
Jimmy O'Donnell, David A. Smith, Claus Stuhlweissenburg,
Ron Washburn, Mark Whitman, William Steinberg and JC Castro
Saturn Awards Best Television Presentation Nominated [32]

Home media[edit]

NBC released a DVD of the special on December 22, 2015,[33] through Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The DVD includes a behind-the-scenes special, The Making of The Wiz Live![34] As part of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Shows Must Go On, the full show was made available on YouTube for a limited time, to support the African-American community and other communities of color during the George Floyd protests.[35][36]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Wiz Live!". NBC. Retrieved October 22, 2015.
  2. ^ a b Khan, Jessica (22 October 2015). "SCOOP: NBC's THE WIZ LIVE! Will Feature New Song by NE-YO, Plus Movie Tune for 'Scarecrow'". Broadway World. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
  3. ^ Ne-Yo (actor) (November 25, 2015). "The Wiz LIVE!" Cast! (live television interview). Retrieved December 29, 2015. This is a kind of blend of the Broadway musical and the movie, so it's like both of them combined.
  4. ^ a b c d The Wiz Live!: Original ←York (Media notes).
  5. ^ "Breaking News: Y'all Got It! Capathia Jenkins, Marcus Paul James and More Broadway Vets Join THE WIZ LIVE! - Full Cast Announced!". Broadway World. 28 October 2015. Retrieved 20 November 2015.
  6. ^ a b Rorke, Robert (22 November 2015). "Ne-Yo: My 'Wiz Live!' Tin Man transformation is 'not comfortable at all'". New York Post. New York Post. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  7. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (11 May 2015). "Stephanie Mills Joins 'The Wiz Live!' On NBC". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
  8. ^ Byrd, Craig (15 July 2015). "Curtain Call: For The Record Finds New Life With a Cirque Du Soleil/Baz Luhrmann Mash-Up". Los Angeles Magazine. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
  9. ^ Crook, John (26 November 2015). "'The Wiz Live!': NBC's latest live musical broadcast from Long Island". Newsday. Retrieved 26 November 2015.
  10. ^ "NBC's 'The Wiz' Finds Its Dorothy". The Hollywood Reporter. 5 August 2015. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  11. ^ Petski, Denise (1 June 2015). "Fatima Robinson, Harvey Mason Jr & Stephen Oremus Board 'The Wiz Live!'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
  12. ^ "American Foundation for the Blind Celebrates 20th Anniversary of the Helen Keller Achievement Awards and Announces 2016 Honorees". American Foundation for the Blind. Retrieved 16 June 2016.
  13. ^ "Reddi-Wip Adds Sweet Sounds as 'Wiz' Sponsor". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  14. ^ "Wal-Mart's Peter Pan 'Warr' Room". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  15. ^ "Walmart Takes Big Role in 'Peter Pan Live!'". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  16. ^ "Madison Avenue Pushes Back On Price For TV's Live 'Wiz,' 'Grease'". Variety. 30 November 2015. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  17. ^ "NBC Hopes The Wiz Live Will Be More Like Sound of Music and Less Like Peter Pan". Adweek. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  18. ^ "The Wiz Live! (2015)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved February 22, 2020.
  19. ^ "The Wiz Live! Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved March 7, 2018.
  20. ^ "Thursday final ratings: 'The Wiz Live' holds, 'CMA Country Christmas' adjusts down plus final NFL numbers". TVbythenumbers. Tribune Media. Archived from the original on 6 December 2015. Retrieved 5 December 2015.
  21. ^ a b c "'The Wiz Live' Ratings Strong: NBC Musical Draws 11.5 Million Viewers". Variety. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  22. ^ "Ratings Hit The Wiz Live! Sets Rebroadcast Date". Playbill. Retrieved 6 December 2015.
  23. ^ "TV Ratings Saturday: Democratic debate down but leads a soft night". Zap 2 It. Archived from the original on 22 December 2015. Retrieved 22 December 2015.
  24. ^ Hipes, Patrick (5 January 2017). "Art Directors Guild Awards Nominations: 'Rogue One', 'Game Of Thrones' & More". Deadline. Retrieved 5 January 2017.
  25. ^ "Black Reel Awards for TV – Past Nominees & Winners by Category". Black Reel Awards. Retrieved December 18, 2021.
  26. ^ "The 18th Costume Designers Guild Awards (2016)". Costume Designers Guild. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  27. ^ "Critics' Choice Award Nominations Led by 'Mad Max,' 'Fargo'". Variety. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
  28. ^ "69th DGA Awards". Directors Guild of America Awards. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  29. ^ "Creed, Empire, Black-ish top NAACP Image Awards winners list". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 6 February 2016.
  30. ^ "20th Annual Television Awards (2015-16)". Online Film & Television Association. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  31. ^ "The Wiz Live!". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved July 13, 2021.
  32. ^ "'The Force Awakens' Rings Up Eight Saturn Awards". Variety. June 23, 2016.
  33. ^ Gina Carbone (December 22, 2015). "What's New on TV, Netflix, Digital, and DVD/Blu-ray This Week: December 21–27". Movie Fone. Whale Rock Industries. Retrieved December 21, 2015.
  34. ^ BWW News Desk (December 22, 2015). "NBC's THE WIZ LIVE! Coming to DVD Later This Month!". Broadway World. Wisdom Digital Media. Retrieved December 4, 2015.
  35. ^ "The WIZ Live! - Friday 12th June (Teaser) | The Shows Must Go On". 5 June 2020. Retrieved 14 June 2020.
  36. ^ "The WIZ Live! - FULL STAGE SHOW | The Shows Must Go On - Stay Home #WithMe". 12 June 2020. Retrieved 14 June 2020.

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