Performer of the Week: Mary J. Blige

THE PERFORMER | Mary J. Blige

THE SHOW | The Wiz Live (Dec. 3, 2015)

THE PERFORMANCE | It’s more than understandable if you went into NBC’s The Wiz Live with some trepidation about its 2 hour and 45 minute running time. After all, that’s careening toward Super Bowl length — with no halftime show to break up the action.

Quite impressively, however, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron’s production zipped on down the road without any lag in energy — thanks to excellent performances, eye-popping costumes and kicky choreography. And an hour and 51 minutes in, the musical got an added jolt of joy with the arrival of Mary J. Blige’s ill-tempered villainess Evillene.

Clad in a black and violet gown that looked like it got dropped directly from the set of Once Upon a Time, Blige deliciously chewed up the scenery from her first moment on the stage — sneering at her groveling subjects with haughty disdain, demanding the death of the Royal Plumber for allowing a leaky pipe to go unrepaired and then launching into a glorious rendition of “Don’t Nobody Bring Me No Bad News.” Blige’s pitch-perfect holleration and growlation brought out the cantankerous humor in the lyrics — and provided a perfect counterbalance to the wide-eyed innocence of Shanice Williams’ excellent work as heroine Dorothy Gale.

After she finished the high-energy jam, Evillene learned Dorothy and her friends were on their way to kill her. “That’s not such bad news,” she reasoned, delivering one of the funniest zingers of the production. “It’s not nice news, but it’s not terrible news! I mean, if you’re gonna be a wicked witch and you’re good at your job, you’re gonna have to expect to rub some folks the wrong way.” And with that, she unleashed her “winged warriors” with a wickedness so gleeful, it was hard not to root for Blige’s character — just for a moment.

A few minutes later, Evillene would be dispatched by Dorothy and a bucket of dirty water. But while her character’s brief stage time ended in the ultimate defeat, Blige’s work in The Wiz Live was an undeniable triumph.

Tovah-Feldshuh-TWDHONORABLE MENTION | Tovah Feldshuh isn’t just having a moment, she’s having moments — plural. The veteran actress delivered not one but two knockout performances this week, first turning Deanna’s Walking Dead swan song into a brave aria, then literally breaking into song as Rebecca’s hypercritical mom on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. (Is “Where’s the Bathroom?” an insta-classic, or what? Perfection!) In both cases, Feldshuh made the most of her opportunities to reveal the softness that made her characters so tough. As a result, it was just as moving when Deanna went out in a blaze of glory as it was when Mrs. Bunch admitted that she loved her daughter (who’d totally survive when the Cossacks come).

potw-gotham-mazouzHONORABLE MENTION | On the heels of an episode in which Bruce first tested the waters as a cunning manipulator, Gotham’s David Mazouz this week explored some dark knight places as the Wayne scion braced for a seemingly certain death — in the event he couldn’t masterfully elude it. After a “failed” escape attempt orchestrated by Silver, Mazouz made clear Bruce’s always-on perception. “When I’m dead you may feel bad, and I don’t want you to think you tricked me,” he says in outing his frenemy’s “ghoulish charade.” Then taking stock of Silver’s inherited duplicity, Mazouz mixed a cold truth with a hint of warm compassion, stating, “I don’t love you. I pity you.” But the 14-year-old actor most moved us when a wistful Bruce shared of his dire fate, “Mostly I feel very alive. Happy, even. I’m going to see my parents,” whose infamous murder he longed to solve — before demonstrating the heart of a hero, as Bruce gave Silver a goodbye kiss that quite literally saved her life.

ruth-wilson-the-affair-potwHONORABLE MENTION | Few TV shows have made childbirth seem more harrowing than The Affair did last Sunday — and not just because it looked quite painful. Rather, it was Ruth Wilson’s superb, complex performance that gave Alison’s delivery scene the gravitas it deserved. As Alison went into labor during a vicious hurricane, Wilson’s face became a veritable Rolodex of emotion, portraying her character’s sadness (at not having Noah by her side), fear (at giving birth in a natural disaster) and guilt (at not wanting to have the baby at all). Wilson played Alison’s conflict so intensely that by the time Little Solloway was born, we let out a collective sigh of relief we didn’t even know we’d been holding.

Which performances knocked your socks off this week? Hit 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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29 Comments
  1. grace says:

    Tovah Feldshuh was AMAZING in Crazy Ex Girlfriend

    • Phlarg says:

      No one seems to be bothered by the fact that they kowtowed to Mary J this week. It was ok, she definitely wasnt performer of the week. If you’re gonna give anyone from the Wiz POTW, It should be Shanice. She worked her butt off and was in almost every scene. SMH I love Mary J, dont get me wrong, but this is patronizing.

  2. The Beach says:

    I don’t know how you guys keep missing Jonathan Tucker on Kingdom. Week after week he is producing some of the finest acting on television.

    • Bwhit says:

      Yes!!!! He is captivating every week as Jay. That scene with his mother was some of the best television I’ve seen in a long time.

  3. Gyorgyi says:

    Agree with all,but very surprised that you guys missed Kirsten Dunst from this week’s Fargo. I reckon this will be her award winning episode.

  4. kirads09 says:

    Agree with David Mazouz. He was incredible in Touch as Jake as well.
    The depth he has at such a young age .

    My honorable mentions
    After bingeing it – pretty entire cast of High Castle. Wow. Just wow.
    Kirsten – Fargo – actualized or unhinged Peggy
    Capaldi – Hello – Heaven Sent anyone? Few actors can pull of the “solitary” episode. He did in the most awesome way imaginable. Can’t wait for tonight.

    • Tanya says:

      Agree. Capaldi’s performance was out of this world. Also just because it is on Netflix does not mean we cannot honor Jessica Jones. Both David and Krysten were amazing in their roles.

  5. I would bump Ruth Wilson up to Performer of the Week and add Aya Cash as an honorable mention for this week’s last scene alone.

  6. Phun says:

    Melissa Benoist’s performance this week in Supergirl knocked my socks off during the boxing scene and at the end when she blasted RT with the heat vision. The boxing scene brought tears to my eyes because I’ve longed to be ‘normal’ myself. And the blasting of RT intertwined with her leaving Krypton along with the music was totally epic and was so emotional, I was feeling her pain too and tearing up as well.

  7. LADY_in_MD says:

    I agree with David he was really good on this week’s Gotham i also will give it to the girl who plays silver both of them this week were great in their scenes together

  8. haley1020 says:

    what about melissa benoist for supergirl this week she was fantastic

  9. Carlos Alvarez Jr says:

    Terrence Howard for Empire. I hate his character at times because of what he does but for that final scene with Taraji where he broke down after being removed as CEO made me feel so bad for him. His acting was amazing. Melissa Benoist was amazing this week also as Supergirl. I see now her talent was wasted on Glee

    • Miranda says:

      I, personally, am shocked Terrence Howard didn’t at least get an honourable mention. For the all the horrendous things his character has done, he actually made me feel bad for him in that one moment.

  10. Spence says:

    I was about to suggest Tovah, so happy to see her on here. As much death as there is on Walking Dead, I have rarely cried or gotten emotional at all watching the show, but Tovah gave so much touching emotion behind all of her monologues with Michonne and Rick, I actually started tearing up. Will definitely miss seeing Tovah every Sunday.

  11. dan says:

    Mary J. Bilge was great, but Amber Riley stole the spotlight in The Wiz Live! She commanded the stage from the moment she appeared, sang the hell out of “He’s the Wiz” and then returned at the end to wrap things up with Glinda and Dorothy with the perfect amount of empathy and humor. There were many outstanding performances in The Wiz (including the ensemble), but I keep remembering Amber’s performance more than anybody else’s.

    • Anna says:

      Right?? Amber Riley was MVP of the Wiz. My friend even joked that she could have played MJB’s role too since they’re never on stage at the same time haha

  12. Diz says:

    I watched The Wiz and this is a part I started to doze off on. So many great performances from The Wiz and you pick this 1? Cmon now!

    • Timmah says:

      Agreed. When Evillene appeared that’s where I thought the whole production went off the rails. It was pretty good up until then.

  13. Tovah says:

    Tovahs are the best ;-) We are finally getting our moment. (I’m named after Tovah Feldshuh)

  14. Mary J. Blige – Am feeling that beautiful Black women are evil – is this correct…?? When beautiful, evil and from the west they should be killed with water – cause they iz dirty…??? ;-D Mary J. Blige is FAB!!!

  15. Jared says:

    David Mazouz is such a star and his acting is well beyond his years. Really looking forward to following his career. On another note, although I’ve been a fan of Mary J Blige since forever, I actually thought she was the weakest part of The Wiz Live.

  16. liame says:

    Performer of the Week: The Whole Cast of the WIZ!!!!! Honorable Mention: The Whole Cast of the WIZ!!!! Shanice Williams was outstanding! This young lady has a bright future ahead of her if she’s given the opportunity, she has definitely earned it.

  17. Cindy says:

    The show was great but the filming was poor. Whoever was behind the camera zoomed in too much too often, especially during the strong musical performances which took away from the overal show itself. I love musicals. Seen quite a few. Nine minutes into it I was a little disappointed. Just a little constructive criticism.

  18. critic says:

    I agree!!! Mary J was phenomenal!!

  19. Emanuel says:

    All the actors from agents of shield!!!!

    • VJ says:

      AoS has such a stellar cast, it´s amazing. Iain De Caestecker broke my heart in his scenes with Simmons screaming. This season is easy their best yet (so far, at least).