This sharp and sassy version based on William F. Brown’s interpretation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a bold spectacle to watch unfold.
Originally broadcast in 2015, The Wiz Live! is filled with great musical numbers, a strong and charismatic cast and spectacular visuals that make this a real joy to watch.
The story follows Dorothy who wants to leave the farm in Kansas but finds her plans scuppered when a tornado hits and lands her in the land of Oz. Along her journey in Oz to see the wizard, she makes friends and joins forces with Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion to help her to get her home again.
Directed by Kenny Leon, everything about this show is bold and imaginative visually, drawing the audience effectively into the world of Oz wonderfully well. The video projections and Michael Pilipski’s set design are delightfully colourful and quirky, really embracing the otherworldliness of Oz, enhanced further by the Paul Tazewell’s dazzling costume designs – with those of the scarecrow, tin man and the poppies being particularly impressive.
When all put together, it all leads to some wonderful moments – with the storm sequence proving to be particularly impressive when combined with some mesmerisingly fluent choreography. But there is plenty of visual magic to be found elsewhere, particularly when the audience is introduced to The Wiz, dazzling us further and showing that no expense has been spared on this.
Having never seen the 1978 film or any production, I wasn’t familiar with the score – but Charlie Small’s original music is delightfully smooth and enjoyable to listen to. In particular, numbers such as ‘The Feeling We Once Had’ and ‘Soon as I Get Home’ for example are wonderful soulful and engaging to listen to while ‘He’s the Wizard’ is filled with disco sounds.
The way in which choreography is used is also impressive as seen in ‘Slide Some Oil to Me’ and the wonderfully surreal ‘Emerald City Ballet’ really embraces the quirkiness of the story and characters.
On top of this are wonderful performances from Shanice Williams as a particularly feisty Dorothy, David Alan Grier as the immensely likeable and big hearted lion, Ne-Yo as an impressive tin man and Queen Latifah as the Wiz. Each delivers heaps of personality that makes their characters easy to engage with.
Overall, this is a wonderful spectacle to watch – filled with imagination and warmth it is a great watch from start to finish.
By Emma Clarendon
The Wiz Live! is available to watch on The Show must Go On’s Youtube channel here (except due to rights in Latin America and Asia) until this evening.