The Wiz Live: 16 Best, Worst and Wackiest Moments!

Coming off last year’s so-so Peter Pan Live!, the pressure was on 2015’s candidate, The Wiz Live (what happened to the exclamation point?) to restore health and good vibrations to NBC’s holiday-season, live-musical franchise.

I’m pleased to report, then, that won’t nobody bring you no bad news. Led by newcomer Shanice Williams, Queen of Hip-Hop Soul Mary J. Blige, actual queen Queen Latifah and Stephanie Mills (aka Broadway’s original Dorothy), The Wiz Live was a gorgeously sung, technically solid and surprisingly zippy two hours and 45 minutes.

Oh sure, there were a few logs in the road — yes, that was a reference to Common’s wooden performance — which is why TVLine spent the telecast compiling the musical’s 16 best, worst and wackiest Moments.

Check out the gallery below — or click here for direct access — then grade The Wiz Live in our poll below and share your thought in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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111 Comments
  1. DarkDefender says:

    That witch outfit was Mary J. Sublime. Where can we vote for her to get on OUAT. That needs to happen, STAT.
    .
    Stephanie Mills.. Yes and Yes.
    .
    David Allen Grier brung it, yo!

    • Murl says:

      Where was Toto??

      • Annie says:

        I assumed they omitted Toto due to the issues in using a real dog during a live telecast. Simply too many variables they couldn’t control with him. But he was at the beginning and end so that’s okay

      • BrightLight says:

        I’m going to assume they didn’t use him because it would be very difficult to use a dog during a live TV production. I love how they brought him back in the end like he was an after thought though.

      • CK2 says:

        Kansas. He doesn’t take the trip with her in the musical. Most likely because of the issues with managing a dog while performing choreography.

      • big cheddar says:

        I read that it was an homage to the original Broadway show. Apparently, the dog trainer couldn’t train the dog to properly behave before the show started it’s b’way run, so Toto only appeared in the beginning and the final scene of the show.

      • Murica! says:

        They couldn’t find a dog that was black enough.

        • Kristin says:

          Yes! I remember the wizard of oz being all white. Why did they have to do it the total opposite?

          • This was done in 1978. And Black was better!

          • Jellymoff says:

            The ignorance on this topic amazes me.

          • Murica! says:

            Because they wanted to be PC.

          • Annie says:

            Cause this isn’t The Wizard of Oz. this is The Wiz…a retelling of the book with an all black cast and black perspective. It’s a different adaptation.

          • Juanita says:

            The original Wiz was produced in 1978 by Berry Gordy to provide Black actors with opportunity to perform on Broadway and to promote Motown music and musicians. No one complained about all white productions . So what’s the problem?

          • Beckstle says:

            Seriously? This is “The Wiz” – not the “Wizard of Oz.” If this were a remake of the original film, “The Wizard of Oz” you might have a point. However, “The Wiz” is it’s own piece – a different script and a different score. It’s an originally black musical from 1978 that won seven Tony awards. Get a grip.

          • Scot says:

            This show has been around for decades. The Wiz is an urban telling of the same story. It a musical that spoke to the times, but as I have seen the productions of the years, they still hold true to the main and important concept of both versions. Home is where your heart is.

          • CK2 says:

            @Juanita The original Wiz was produced in 1975 by Charlie Smalls (and others) for a cast of all black performers who were underrepresented on Broadway. Berry Gordy/Motown bought the rights to the 1975 musical in 1977 and produced the movie. Stephanie Mills was actually slated to play Dorothy (reprising her role from the Broadway musical) and was signed by Motown in anticipation. Diana Ross, however, muscled her way into the role (for which she was too old and vocally miscast).

          • Adam cohill says:

            I agree If they were to do an all white wizard of oz there would be riots

    • Scout says:

      YAASSS – Ms. Stephanie Mills. YAAS!

  2. t.w.123 says:

    I have NOTHING bad to say about it! STELLAR! STELLAR! STELLAR! Already saved it on my DVR and I’m looking forward to owning a copy on DVD as well!

  3. Mik says:

    AMBER WAS AMAZING! She was so wasted on Glee and it felt so good to see her on my TV and SINGING again.

  4. Re: “TURN AROUND RED-EYES!”
    Those were the Kalidahs, not Flying Monkeys. The Munchkins warned Dorothy about them.

  5. StephonJS says:

    The Wiz is my favorite movie and always wanted to see the stage so Im so glad NBC made my dream come true. Now I just need to see on boardway

  6. Matt Webb Mitovich says:

    A+ commentary, Michael!

    Me, I’m just gonna leave this here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJLj5Bxuubo

  7. laurelnev says:

    What NBC put on tonight in no way, shape, or form was “The Wiz;” it was a sanitized black Wizard of Oz that stole the songs. How do you take the urban jungle out and still call it “The Wiz?” REALLY surprised this was NBC and NOT Disney-owned ABC, as it certainly was a Disneyfied version.

    That being said, that ingenue who played Dorothy did well considering she’s never done theatre before, and Diana Ross/Stephanie Mills both leave awful big shoes to fill. But it needed more urban jungle to truly be “The Wiz.”

    • CK2 says:

      This was actually very faithful to the original 1975 musical. The movie is where the entire concept of an urban jungle gym came from and that’s because like most films of it’s time, it attempted to go for a blaxploitation aesthetic.

    • evababy says:

      I was following a Broadway twitter feed and they were going into some good technical background and this was the original Broadway version of The Wiz. Not the movie version. Which makes sense.

      • NJMark says:

        We’re going through the same complaints that The Sound of Music “didn’t follow the movie” either, when neither was supposed to!

    • Wild orchid says:

      Respectfully, as others have said this was actually more faithful to the original stage version than the film which was an adaptation and they changed a number of things about the play including the setting. The play never took place in Harlem. I will always have a special place in my heart for The Wiz as many young black kids do but even I can admit that Diana Ross was an awful choice to play Dorothy. You know not of what you speak.

    • I’ve saw Stephanie Mills on Broadway in the play, the movie was the adaptation.

    • You Again??? says:

      Oh my god, LaurelNev! Do you every have anything positive to say?! If you’re not complaining about once upon a time it’s something else. Jesus! Have a snickers or something.

    • James says:

      I guess you never got to watch the movie.

    • Sally McLinn says:

      The costumes turned me off, as well as the stiff acting by rappers and recording artists. They needed Broadway artists to really bring it to life.

      • Annie says:

        Common is normally better than he was last night; everyone has an off night. But Queen and MaryJ owned that stage. And Neyo did a pretty dang good job. The casting was awesome.

      • big cheddar says:

        Respectfully, they DID have broadway veterans in this production..
        Stephanie Mills, David Alan Grier, Elijah Kelley, Uzo Aduba have all been on Broadway. I’m pretty sure most if not all the dancers have broadway (or touring company) credits on their bio as well. Shockingly, Amber Riley hasn’t been on b’way but, after last night, I’m sure that will change soon.

  8. HeatherC says:

    That was one of the most enjoyable productions I’ve ever seen. The only ‘bad’ thing I can think of is that Dorothy’s skirt could have been a tad longer (shallow gripe but hey, you mentioned it too so I don’t feel bad about noticing that anymore). It was well choroegraphed, everyone sang their hearts out, and the entire thing was just REALLY well done. Congrats NBC and everyone involved with The Wiz Live for a really great show! =)

  9. BrightLight says:

    I want the DVD, the soundtrack and some tissues ASAP.

    I love how Uzo walked onstage, blew everyone away and basically said “Where’s my next Emmy?”. I had no idea she had that voice in her and would love to hear more of it.

  10. Roy says:

    I’m shocked by how much I enjoyed this. It wasn’t a train wreck or a mess like past productions. It was legitimately, unironically good. When people on Twitter who were ready to live snark are won over by it you know they did good, and they did good.

  11. LeahKittyS says:

    Okay, this is by far the best live production they’ve done yet, and I didn’t even see last year’s show. The cast was amazing, the costumes and scenery was gorgeous (except what was up with Scarecrow’s face mask?), and the singing and dancing were 100% on point. I’ve loved the song “Home” ever since I saw Melinda Doolittle sing it on American Idol, but Shanice’s version ties with it for my all-time favorite. I have no idea what NBC is planning on doing next year, but this is gonna be a very tough one to top.

  12. Kim (@AD76) says:

    Never saw the original, but I overall enjoyed it. Ne Yo’s weird accent/dialect/whatever was a little annoying, I’m not sure David Allen Grier was right in a singing role, but otherwise, I was good with it.

  13. Annie says:

    I really enjoyed it!! The sets and costumes were beautiful and everyone did a great job (and there were some big shoes to fill with this show) . Uzo stole the show, like damnnnnnn. I’m a fan of Common so I was disappointed to see him off his game tonight. Also, Queen looked friggen awesome in that Wiz outfit.

  14. KathyF says:

    A+ production! Thank you for naming Mykal Kilgore as the wonderful performer in the ensemble who I recognized but couldn’t place. (He did the great PMJ version of “My Heart Will Go On”, for starters.) I hope we will see more of him in the future. Ne-Yo, Amber Riley, and Uzo Aduba were stand-outs.

  15. Mick says:

    Voguing is apart of Ball culture. Ball culture was created by black and brown gay men. Madonna appropriated this culture, so I will not be popping out one of her cds.
    This production was the best they put on. Fatima Robinson is a class A choreographer.

  16. znachki says:

    Loved the movement from the crows. Very birdlike.

  17. evababy says:

    This was excellent. Bright colors, great staging, make up and costumes and wonderful singing — really made the time fly.

    Amber Riley was fantastic! That is one of my favorite songs in the show and she did it justice.

    The Poppies and the Club Emerald City Voguing scenes were also great little moments that were both surprising and visually interesting. Also the music choices for those two small scenes added a little bit of edge to the show. Very NOT Broadway. The Monkeys ‘flying’ on the springy stilts and the Crows were also very visually interesting.

    Mary J. Blige was sublime!

    Overall that was great fun to watch.

  18. Scout says:

    That was AMAZING! I am already re-watching it. Smiled all the way through :)

  19. Robert says:

    This gave me LIFE, Death, and Resurrection. Hallelu!!

  20. Susan Joseph says:

    Excellent show! The costumes scenery and especially the singing were awesome…I did not miss Toto!!

  21. Shanece brown says:

    Such a great production. I saw no color just great acting and singing. We needed these few minutes of joy. Thank you!!

  22. Annie says:

    This was very good. I loved every minute. Neyo singing “If I Could Feel” was incredible.

  23. Gail Brewer says:

    The wiz was updated to todays time, beautiful costumes, very welldone, refreshing,dazzling uplifting go N b C
    I will watch it again and again
    gail okc

  24. Michelle says:

    Yass Hontey…Loved it all! Kudos to Shanice..at 19..there’s nowhere else but up for you. Loved vogue scene, outfits, moving stage scenes. It was alil odd watching Mary play Evil Ene cuz she’s so sweet. Her singing is phenomenal as usual, but I thought her characterization or portrayal of “mean” seemed forced..Agree with monstrous scarecrow face..yikes. Waiting for the DVD fo sho!

  25. Frances says:

    Too many commercials.I found that very distracting,

  26. I missed Christopher Walken!

  27. B says:

    I thought it was great. Very professional, visually stunning, and with several very moving songs. My only problems were with the excessive number of commercials, and that some parts felt kind of chopped or rushed because of them — sometimes it felt like they came back when the cast had already been performing for at least several seconds. With the broadcast ending 15 minutes before the hour, I didn’t understand the hurried pace. The ending when Dorothy got home (after that stellar version of “Home), felt abrupt too. But those are pretty minor complaints compared to how good everything and everyone was (Common’s performance didn’t bother me; he was supposed to be a guard to the city, and he did warm up in a couple of moments, such as in welcoming them into the city). Kudos to the cast and the whole production team. A great success.

  28. KC says:

    Could her skirt have been any shorter? Pretty bad make up department too.

    • Annie says:

      The makeup definitely wasn’t as strong as the costuming, but still good. The only misstep was the Scarecrow mask. My gawd. I would have preferred if they’d done a version of the Garland-Oz’s scarecrow mask.

  29. Sally McLinn says:

    I will have to rewatch it, because I didn’t see what others saw. The costumes were overly-done (is that a word?) and a turnoff for me.
    I thought the acting was high-schoolish, esp. the Tinman, Lion and Scarecrow. These are not stage actors, they are songwriters and recording artists, so their acting was stiff to me.

  30. Cverj says:

    Me and my family loved it!!!!

  31. Lauren says:

    That 18 year old is going places! And thank you for mentioning her skirt, it was driving me crazy.

  32. Clandestine Green says:

    The Wiz outclassed The Sound of Music and Peter Pan in every way imaginable. The casting was great…the sets and costumes were incredible. I had no idea that Uzo Aduba could sing and it was nice to see Amber Riley shine.

  33. bella says:

    monkeys….

  34. Karen says:

    Ok I’m going to need them to release a product line and no a tutorial on that Queen Latifahs Green contour. Everyone’s makeup was phenomenal. The show was really good!!! Kudos to NBC for getting it right this year A++++

  35. Em Jay says:

    I thought the costumes were some of the best,such vivid colors and so tastefully done. I was pleasantly surprised that it was not a train wreck and thought the 4 characters, Queen Latifah, and the Good Witches were way better than I expected. Kudos to Latifah’s singing. Now, as a person who is an absolute LOVER of the Wiz (original Broadway w Stephanie Mills and the movie with Diana & Micheal) and can still sing ALL of the songs to both soundtracks from memory, May J just didn’t do it for me – singing or acting. All of that fake me out evil laughing….recast her please. But the others were surprisingly good. But I just can’t say anyone really NAILED their songs. They all had REALLY BIG shoes to fill with most of the persons before them being legends in their own rights. But overall, enjoyed it. Again, love them costumes…. Man!!!

  36. David Scott says:

    What was NBC thinking…that was horrible.

    • NJMark says:

      They were thinking “why didn’t we do this LAST year instead of Peter Pan?”

    • the ratings said otherwise – #racistmuch?

      • sissyfritz says:

        I’m sorry, but accusing someone of being a racist just because they didn’t agree with your opinion of the show is beyond terrible. I thought Peter Pan was dreadful last year and it wasn’t because I detest white people. Think before you throw out such a hateful statement.

        Also ratings aren’t always an indicator of quality (although personally I thought “The Wiz” was by far and away the best Live! musical television’s produced in the past few years.)

  37. luli101 says:

    We really loved it!!! We watched the “Making of The Wiz Live” a week or so ago, and so my girls were excited to see it all come to life. Their favorite song was the Queen Latifah song when they first meet the wizard, which surprised me, but I guess she really did kill it. Personally, I loved the costuming, songs, stage, the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion were just so enjoyable. The only thing was the lighting occasionally, but after the first couple of scenes, I didn’t notice it so much anymore. Thank you, NBC!!

  38. Caroline says:

    Not a fan of who Ms. Williams as Dorothy. Her scream-singing was grating and she was so awkward and stiff. It seemed that sometimes she was trying to be street tough and other times she was trying to be innocent. But Elijah Kelly, David Alan Grier, and those crows were amazing. Mary J Blige and Amber Riley were also really good, and I was bummed that they didn’t get more air time. It was an okay show, a lot could’ve been improved upon.

  39. NJMark says:

    -Pic#15: A “random” stand was visible? I think it was a very SPECIFIC stand….
    -If Glinda in the gold dress didn’t need gold lipstick, why did they ugly-up a babe like Amber Riley w/blue lipstick?

  40. Lady Liath says:

    The sexualization of Dorothy was unnecessary. Her skirt was entirely too short! I’m no prude but it’s just really not necessary to present Dorothy this way and actually took away from Shanice William’s brilliant performance.

    • Timmah says:

      The irony is that they’ll probably end up under-sexualizing Grease next month.

    • CK2 says:

      You are a bit of a prude. There was nothing wrong with the length of her skirt.

      • MI64 says:

        Yes, it was too short…for all of the bending. Kicking, twirling etc she did it should have been longer.

      • Pedat Ebediyah says:

        She is hardly a prude. The skirt was prohibitively short and it me the character “look” like an attention whoring slut.

        It was the earnestness and innocence of a young Dorothy caught up in matters outside of her control simply wanting to get back home.

        We sexualize EVERYTHING.

        It adding NOTHING and was merely an unnecessary distraction.

        Go look at Diana Ross in the movie production and see how dope she was dancing around in her ole homely dress. Super fun!

  41. jackie says:

    I don’t understand how you can compare broadway play version to a movie version an expect the same thing. Although they did use Michael Jackson song from the movie instead of original song from the play.

  42. opus says:

    Please, please find a way to bring us more Stephanie Mills. In a show filled with fine musical performances, Stephanie’s “The Feeling We Once Had” was the most sublime. A truly spectacular opening number for “The Wiz Live”!!

  43. perlienunn@yahoo.com says:

    I thought it was wonderful ,. Life is not all in a white version.Also black is not all a bad thing to see it’s got good in it to.

  44. Susan says:

    It was really bad but no where near as bad as the 1978 version. So, does that make it good. No, not really just way more watchable.

    • Beckstle says:

      This is was a good redoing of the 1975 Broadway musical – not the 1978 movie. That movie didn’t get great reviews, but the material that was used for NBC’s “The Wiz Live” won seven Tony awards for the original production. In other words, the raw material for the NBC production was already proven as being fabulous.

  45. WingstoFly says:

    DVR’d it and watched it today. It was a play on TV, and with that said it was done seamlessly. Kenny Leon has done plays for years in Atlanta. Costumes and makeup were excellent, love the colors. Liked that the scarecrow, lion, and tin man all had vests.
    Now for the actors. To my surprise Shaniece Williams was great as Dorothy, and I had high expectations. I didn’t think she was right for the part but she was adorable. Although the length of her skirt botherd me also. It could have been a smidgen longer. Neyo and Elijah Kelley were great. David Alan Grier was #1. The most charming cowardly lion ever! He tamed those poppies. Amber Riley can SANG, love her.
    Who didn’t do it for me? Queen Latifah, Common, Mary J. Bilge, Uzo Aduba. Queen Latifah makeup as the Wiz was great but that’s the part Common should have played or he would have been a good scarecrow. Mary was not herself, she was too stiff and just didn’t pull off evil, Her costume stole the show. Uzo and Mary should have switched parts. Love Stephanie Mills but it was so apparent that they tried to hide the height difference between her and Shaniece when they shouldn’t have.
    Over all the show was a success in my opinion.

    • MI64 says:

      I concur!

    • Timmah says:

      I agree about Mary J Blige. She just did not pull off that role well, and that’s where I thought the production sort of ground to a halt, and there wasn’t the great jubilation you should feel when the wicked witch dies. Overall though I thought the show was good, especially given the limitations of doing a live play on TV.

  46. Bruce Wayne says:

    This was the worst of the three live musicals that NBC has put on to date.

  47. Skip Martin says:

    A lot of dead space in the show where cast were standing around looking at each other. David Alan Grier was good because he has Broadway experience. Several miscast parts. Even miked several of the leads could not hold their own. Why not Jennifer Holiday as Evilene. Natalie Cole as Glynda, Billy Porter from Kinky Boots as Scrawcrow. Taye Diggs as Tin Man, these people could have sung the parts and blown you away. Very disappointed after seeing the original Broadway.

    • Cyreio says:

      Why not Mary j, blige???? She was perfect for the role! I do love Jennifer as well!

    • PSCali says:

      I agree that Jennifer Hokday and Taye Diggs would have been great too! But, having heard Natalie Cole sing live, she does not have the pipes to pull off a live singing roll in The Wiz.

  48. Scott says:

    Overall it was a good show. Costumes were great. Lion, scarecrow and tin man were good. However Shanice Williams was just OK. She went flat a lot and her acting seemed like she was working too hard at it.

  49. J-9 says:

    Flying Dorothy had me laughing out loud but I missed the motorcycle monkeys. I saw the original play so, the costumes and dancing fell off quite a bit. Still, it left me wanting more. I’ve been singing the soundtrack ever since.