With the Show Must Go On programme still in full swing, this week is in keeping with the current wave within the Black Lives Matter movement. By making The Wiz Live! available on Youtube for 48 hours the scheme is hoping to raise money for the NAACP. You can still view and donate via this link.
This 2015 TV-movie directed by Kenny Leon is described as a soul/R&B reinterpretation of the 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Sounds a little odd when you think about it but it kinda worked. It didn’t totally grip me and sort of ended up as background entertainment which I occasionally dipped in and out of. You have to totally let go of the original and prepare for something totally different and only then I think it becomes easier to enjoy.
With a cast featuring some incredible singers including Queen Latifah, Mary J Blige, Amber Riley and Common, we were spoiled when it came to enjoying a serious set of pipes. Alongside these big names in supporting roles, the main character of Dorothy was taken up by the capable Shanice Williams with Elijah Kelley, Ne-Yo and David Alan Grier as Scarecrow, Tin-Man and Cowardly Lion respectively.
With over 20 songs packed into this show, music definitely took centre stage. Some were better than others, but the more upbeat songs like Ease on Down the Road and A Brand New Day captured my attention and caused me to stop what I was doing to enjoy the number.
I don’t think I am alone in feeling the production fizzled out rather than ending with a bang. This is due to the sickly sweet ending and slower songs over-saturation the final few scenes. Nearing the end I did find myself reaching for the fast forward button.
The plot definitely came second to the aural and visual elements, but with so many knowing and loving the story I can’t imagine this was a problem for people.
Visually the show is colourful, beautifully bizarre and brings a level of energy to the show. I can’t pretend that I understood all of the design choices made as I felt things didn’t gel together as intended but I will say that each costume and set was a visual feast and strong element in itself.
For me, that’s the overall theme. The Wiz Live! was a pleasant watch with some brilliantly sung songs but as a piece altogether it lacked a certain sparkle.