You can put your Twitter fingers away. With captivating performances, updated dialogue and visually stunning costumes and set decorations, The Wiz Live! was a resounding hit.
Anticipatory buzz grew louder and louder over the past few days leading up to last night's debut of The Wiz Live! on NBC. Some people were excited (and nervous) about the chance to revisit the iconic play, which has been a fixture in African-American culture for the past 40 years. Other didn't quite understand why The Wizard of Oz had an all-black cast and didn't know whether that was fair. Many people wanted to find out if The Wiz was going to carry on NBC's new holiday tradition of putting on live musicals that bomb.
Ultimately, The Wiz Live! gave both newcomers and longtime fans a chance to experience The Wiz in a fresh, new way, and by the looks of the black family reunion that followed on Twitter, it provided African Americans with a much-needed pick-me-up at a time when headlines have become increasingly grim.
Here are seven reasons The Wiz Live! was #blackexcellence:
1. Shanice Williams
The Wiz Live! introduced us to newcomer Shanice Williams, who attended an open-call audition for the role of Dorothy over a summer break from school and subsequently landed her first professional role. With her charming portrayal of Dorothy and commanding voice, a star was born.
2. The Performances
With a star-studded cast that included Mary J. Blige, Queen Latifah, David Alan Grier, Elijah Kelley, Amber Riley and Uzo Aduba, there were a number of standout performances from which to choose. Ne-Yo, however, was my favorite, with his Tin Man dance moves (apparently he "dabbed") and his soulful performance of "What Would I Do if I Could Feel?" After watching triple threat after triple threat, I found it hard not to be reminded of Viola Davis' now-famous Emmy speech: "The only thing that separates [us] from anyone else is opportunity."
3. The Dances
Kelley, who played the Scarecrow, did the stanky leg. The crows did the Nae Nae. They vogued in Emerald City. And the poppies did a seductive number that might replace Zumba, pole dancing and Hip Hop in Heels as the next cardio-dance craze.
4. The Sets and Costumes
The set pieces were visually stunning, especially the tornado sequence and the Wicked Witch of the West's glam-punk industrial lair. Costumes were bold, colorful and intricate, particularly Ne-Yo's the Tin Man, Blige's Wicked Witch of the West and Adubo's Glinda the Good Witch.
5. The Beautiful People
The Wiz Live! debuted a diversity of body types, skin tones and hairstyles that may never have been seen before in one TV performance. The dancers and background singers wore twist-outs, cornrows, locks and 'fros. Grier's Cowardly Lion even had natty dreads!
6. The Dialogue
With phrases like, "Why the shade?" and "When you gon' give up them kicks?" The Wiz Live! updated old dialogue with fresh, new lines. My favorite line was, "That's deep, cuz."
7. The Message
It was simple: "Home isn't where you live, it's where you love!"
Between The Wiz Live! and Creed, it's been a good week to be black.
Akilah Green is a recovering Washington, D.C., lawyer-lobbyist-politico turned TV and film writer and producer living in Los Angeles. She currently works for Chelsea Handler’s Netflix talk show, Chelsea. She has also worked as a staff writer for Kevin Hart’s production company, HartBeat Productions, and as a consultant for Real Time With Bill Maher on HBO. In addition, she co-wrote and is producing Scratch, an indie horror-comedy feature film, and is a regular contributor to The Root. Follow Green’s adventures in La La Land on her blog, Twitter and Facebook.