The magic of NBC’s The Wiz Live! was re-created when cast members Shanice Williams, Elijah Kelley, Ne-Yo and David Alan Grier performed a rousing rendition of “We Got It” onstage at the Directors Guild of America last evening (June 1).
That performance, along with Williams’ goose-bump-raising reprise of the musical’s signature song “Home,” capped a panel discussion held for Emmy Awards voters and fans. Moderated by actress Holly Robinson Peete, the 78-minute session also featured cast members Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, Amber Riley (who is headed to London to play Effie in Dreamgirls), executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, director Kenny Leon, choreographer Fatima Robinson, music producer Harvey Mason Jr. and live television director Matthew Diamond.
Watch “We Got It” below:
NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt (“I’m the least interesting thing that will happen here tonight”) introduced a video clip of Carmen de Lavallade, the widow of Geoffrey Holder, the Tony Award-winning director and costume designer of Broadway’s original all-black version of The Wiz. “There was fury and outrage,” recalled the 85-year-old de Lavallade of initial reaction to the 1975 musical. “How dare people of color do The Wiz? But it created great pride in people of color at that time. And to have it reproduced on live television … it was staggering, enchanting and beautiful.”
Between presenting clips from the Dec. 3, 2015, production, Peete steered the panelists’ lively conversation through a variety of topics, ranging from how the show was cast, set design and costumes to makeup, choreography and music.
Among the takeaways:
Kenny Leon: “People think it’s easy. I’ve done 11 Broadway shows, and those still weren’t as difficult as pulling off one major live musical [for television].”
Shanice Williams: On working with Stephanie Mills, Broadway’s Dorothy: “Having her there made everything so much easier. It was like cooking with a chef — we had a good time.”
Queen Latifah: “The first Broadway play I ever saw in my life was The Wiz. That’s where the dream of what I do was born.”
Mary J. Blige: Up for either the good witch or the bad witch, Blige said, “I wanted to be evil and mean; to play a character.”
Ne-Yo: “I had my heart set on being the Scarecrow. I just knew I was going to; in the back of my mind it was ‘I got this.’ Then I got the call, ‘Congrats, you’re the Tin Man.’”
David Alan Grier: On wearing the hot Lion costume: “After we did ‘Brand New Day,’ it felt like I was in a wet sleeping bag.”