Queen Latifah and Mary J. Blige have been added to the cast of NBC’s upcoming holiday musical production of “The Wiz Live!,” set for Thursday, Dec. 3.
Kenny Leon will direct, with Harvey Fierstein providing new written material.
Queen Latifah stars as the Wiz, the mysterious and powerful wizard who holds the keys to the Emerald City, but whose metamorphosis from ordinary to extraordinary is itself a hoax. She rose to her lofty position after being transported by accident to Oz in a hot air balloon during a snowstorm.
Mary J. Blige will play Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West, who holds sway over the Winkies and the Winged Monkeys that do her bidding. She captures Dorothy and her friends to avenge the unintentional murder of her evil sister, Evvamean, and to get back the powerful silver slippers given to Dorothy by the Good Witch of the North.
This will mark a reunion for Queen Latifah and the producers of “The Wiz Live!” (Craig Zadan and Neil Meron) who also executive produced “Hairspray” and the TV film “Steel Magnolias,” both of which Latifah co-starred in.
“We are so happy reuniting with Latifah,” said Zadan and Meron, who saw their executive-produced programs “The Oscars” and “Peter Pan Live!” earn a combined 11 Emmy nominations for the 2015 Emmys. “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.”
In what could be the break of a lifetime for whomever is cast – assuming it isn’t an actress who’s already known and working steadily – NBC announced an open casting call for the lead role of Dorothy, in May. Casting directors were looking for a young African American woman between 18-27 years old. They are looking for an actress with an “extraordinary voice,” as well as “a youthful energy.”
No word yet on who the lucky actress is that’s landed the part.
“The Wiz Live!” is 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 at the Majestic Theatre and won seven Tonys, including best musical.
“The Wiz Live!” is produced by Universal Television in association with Cirque Du Soleil Theatrical.