The Wiz Live: We Needed This (Review)
Why The Wiz Live Matters
NBC really put the full weight of their reach and money behind this production and its clear from the awe-inspiring costuming, jaw-dropping makeup, and exceptional choreography that they took The Wiz Live very seriously. So kudos to them for actually giving a damn.
I was personally blown away by the intricate costuming and the otherworldly details present in each ensemble. I bow down to Paul Tazewell for coming through with sheer life in his material choices, bead work, precious stone, and everything that went into creating the visual blessing. Regardless of if it was a main or supporting character I was completely floored by the expert creativity. The fact that THE WIND ITSELF was personified–just take my life now. The gang (murder?) of crows was very entertaining, the munchins were so extremely cute, and the Emerald City inhabitants gave me steampunk/afro-futurist realness. I will admit that for me Dorothy’s outfit left something to be desired, considering all the other costumes were fabulous to a hilt. I also recognize that Dorothy represents a simple young girl with complex thoughts and goals so maybe that was the reasoning behind her relatively “plain Jane” look. The hair and makeup extravaganza, helmed by husband and wife team Dave and Lou Elsey were flawless and stunning. From Mary J.’s braided grand “crown” to Queen’s intricately highlighted Wiz makeup to the Tin Man’s astonishingly real metallic look–I was so, so thankful for high-def television. The fact that all the hair incorporated all the grains and styling and the multitude of natural Black hair was a clear victory. I saw loose curls, tight curls, kinky curls, havana twists, marley hair, crochet braids, mohawks, and more. For goodness sake the Lion had locs! Scarecrow’s hair was an homage to Jean Michel-Basquiat–made…out…of….twigs. Do you UNDERSTAND what happened?! Just thinking about it makes me die all over again.
The set design was great and the fact that they were moving and replacing pieces on stage during a live broadcast looked effortless. My favorite set by far was the chambers of The Wiz–just truly fantastic work. The amount of wire and acrobatic work was out of this world–you had moments like Dorothy literally being swept away in a tornado, and crows flying off and around the stage.
— NBC (@nbc) December 4, 2015
The writing was hilarious and superb as lines like “You guys are supposed to be my crew!”, yelled by Dorothy when her companions decide to bounce, went over very well and didn’t feel like pandering–much love to Harvey Fierstein and his team. It must be stated that the music production from Harvey Mason, Jr. and music direction from Stephen Oremus was phenomenal. The conscious (and wise) decision to intermix house, bounce, R&B, gospel and trap music to the traditional Broadway sound was ingenious. All of this incorporated with Fatima Robinson‘s sensational choreography sent the entire production into the stratosphere. Not surprisingly Fatima had the mind to incorporate current dances, such as dabbing and whipping throughout every piece of choreo, giving the musical a fresh and present feel. The Emerald City scene (while the movie version still reigns supreme in my view) made me cheer because it was a FUNCTION of the highest order! To incorporate the Ball scene and have full fledged VOGUING going on — you cannot tell me the people in the Capitol in the Hunger Games was not inspired directly from the most fashionable and fierce demonstration. Can I also say how obsessed I was with (who I call) Miss Lampshade??: The Poppies…dear God THE POPPIES:
What I Learned
I highly suggest checking out @FeministaJones’s storify for The Wiz Live where she took to live tweeting the event with the hashtag #JonesingForTheWiz. Feminista truly opened my eyes with her commentary as she strongly suggested that we view The Wiz through the lens of Black Liberation–which made so much sense once applied, and presented a new perspective on the show.
Considering I live tweeted the event, Twitter was, as usual, was on fire with the comedy and right-on-time with on point observations:
I recognize that some people may read this piece and think that I’m just some gushing fangirl–and I kind of don’t care–this production made my heart swell. Not only did The Wiz Live make me feel proud (again) to be Black, I felt so much affection for the entire team involved.
The recognition of the LGBTQ community, the intention of so displaying many aspects of Black culture that seem to always be in contention–admirable. There is no mistake that this musical was groundbreaking (both past and present versions) and made me feel so necessary. This was Black culture at one of its finest moments and I will never forget it. The emotions elicited remain strong and I will be watching again (and viewing behind the scenes footage, and buying the soundtrack!).
PS – Yes I will be one of the hundreds of poppies floating around NYC for Halloween 2016.