Queen Latifah and Mary J. Blige will be part of “The Wiz Live!” – the song and dance retelling of “The Wizard of Oz” slated for NBC on Dec. 3.
Like Carrie Underwood and Allison Williams before them, the Grammy-winning recording artists will be part of a live musical extravaganza. The Emmy- and Oscar-nominated “Bessie” star will play the all-powerful Wiz, and Blige will play baddie Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West, the network announced Tuesday.
The African American-oriented “The Wiz” originated onstage in the 1970s, and the 1975 Broadway production went on to win seven Tony Awards, including best musical. The big-screen musical adaptation of L. Frank Baum children’s tale hit theaters in 1978 and starred Diana Ross as Dorothy and a young Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow.
NBC’s iteration will see the return of Stephanie Mills. The theater actress played Dorothy in the original Broadway production and will play Auntie Em in the TV adaptation. Additional casting is expected to be announced in coming weeks.
Queen Latifah’s Wiz character is described as a mysterious and powerful wizard who holds the keys to the Emerald City but whose metamorphosis from ordinary to extraordinary is itself a hoax. Blige’s evil Evillene holds sway over her minions, the Winkies and Winged Monkeys, and captures Dorothy and her friends to avenge her sister Evvamean and get her silver slippers back.
NBC’s casting move reunites Queen Latifah with producing duo Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, who worked with the singer-actress on “Chicago,” “Hairspray” and the TV film “Steel Magnolias.” The producers also were behind last year’s “Peter Pan Live!” starring Williams.
“We are so happy reuniting with Latifah,” Zadan and Meron said in a statement. “We’ve been friends for a long time and we’ve had quite a lot of success together. To see her play the iconic role of the Wiz and make it her own is going to be one of the joys of producing this event.”
Grammy-winning recording artist Blige recently guest starred on Fox’s music drama “Empire” and the ABC comedy “black-ish.”
“I can’t wait to watch Mary bring the badness that is Evillene,” said director Kenny Leon. “Her talent range is off the charts and I know audiences won’t be able to take their eyes off her.”
Fatima Robinson of “Dreamgirls” and “Ali” will choreograph the show; Harvey Mason Jr. of “Dreamgirls” and “Pitch Perfect 2” will produce the music; and Stephen Oremus of “The Book of Mormon” and “Kinky Boots” will serve as music director, orchestrator and co-producer of the music.