NBC, Cirque du Soleil bringing 'The Wiz' to TV, Broadway
Mar. 30, 2015
LOS ANGELES (AP) — "The Wiz" is coming to TV and back to Broadway with productions from NBC and Cirque du Soleil.
NBC said Monday it will air a Dec. 3 live production of the hit 1970s stage reinvention of "The Wizard of Oz." Its partner on the TV version will be Cirque du Soleil's new stage theatrical division, which will then present "The Wiz" on Broadway for the 2016-17 season.
Live musicals are becoming a NBC holiday month tradition: The network scored nearly 19 million viewers for "The Sound of Music" starring Carrie Underwood in December 2013, although less than half that number tuned in for last year's "Peter Pan Live!"
In January, NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt said the network remained committed to such projects and was weighing either "The Wiz" or "The Music Man" next.
"Cirque's incredible imagination will help bring the fantasy world of Oz vividly to life and give this great show a modern spin on the age-old story we all love," Greenblatt said in a statement Monday.
Tony-Award-winning director Kenny Leon ("A Raisin in the Sun") will stage the TV production and Broadway revival of "The Wiz" in collaboration with fellow Tony winner Harvey Fierstein ("Torch Song Trilogy," ''Hairspray"), who's to contribute new material.
Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, executive producers for NBC's previous musicals, will have the same jobs for "The Wiz," the network said.
"The Wiz" was adapted from "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" by L. Frank Baum, with a book by William F. Brown, and music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls. The production opened on Broadway in 1975 and won seven Tonys, including best musical.
Casting for the TV and stage versions wasn't announced.
The original Broadway production featured Stephanie Mills as Dorothy, Dee Dee Bridgewater as good witch Glinda and Andre De Shields as the Wiz. Mills returned as Dorothy in a 1984 revival.
A 1978 movie version of "The Wiz" starred Diana Ross, Lena Horne and Richard Pryor in those respective roles. Michael Jackson co-starred as the Scarecrow, with Nipsey Russell as the Tinman and Ted Ross as the Lion.
Lynn Elber can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lynnelber .