Encore! Encore! No, I’m serious — can we do this show again next year? Because after watching ‘The Wiz’ last night, I’m not convinced that NBC will be able to match, let alone top, the perfection of this production in 2016. Or, you know, ever.
Can you feel a brand new day? It is an odd sort of feeling: waking up the morning after an NBC musical special and not feeling the need to spew a barrage of snarky comments (a la Anna Kendrick) at the production. The Wiz took audiences to Oz with the help of an outstandingly talented cast, mesmerizing costumes, and a modernized twist to a classic tale. Judging by the copious amount of praise the show got from fans on Twitter, it’s safe to say the show was a huge hit with audiences. But here’s the real question: what the hell are they going to do next year?
Let’s get real here — musicals aren’t for everyone, but in the last decade, the genre has made a serious comeback in pop culture. We can now count NBC’s The Wiz among one of the most entertaining musicals in years and with 11.1 million viewers, it quite literally crushed last year’s production of Peter Pan. If you’re wondering why, consider my humble opinion. The trick to success boils down to three things: the music needs to be rocking, the story needs to be relatable, and it needs to be fun for the whole family. The Wiz fit the bill perfectly.
If you will forgive the pun, there was nothing brainless, heartless, or cowardly about putting on The Wiz in 2015. Though the show debuted on Broadway 40 years ago, the story is still edgy, while maintaining a family-friendly feel, and the R&B-heavy score touts several radio-friendly jams that will surely climb to the top of the iTunes charts when the soundtrack is released. I guarantee you know someone who had ‘Brand New Day’ stuck in their head this morning on their way to work or school. (And if you don’t, I did — so now you know someone!)
However, this perfect trifecta of modern music, timeless story and G-rated fun is hard to come by. Sure, Rodgers and Hammerstein have an unparalleled collection of family-friendly musicals that could fit in, but think about the real problem with NBC’s first outing, Sound of Music. The music sounded beautiful, to be sure, but the songs were all traditional musical fare. Nothing from that soundtrack transcended into the modern music market, so it alienated a good chunk of potential viewers. Same was true for last year’s Peter Pan; not only was the music sleepy, the show overall lacked spectacle and engagement. But both were, without a doubt, suitable for the whole family to gather around the TV to watch together — and that’s the real issue NBC faces when deciding on a show for next year.
Here’s the good news: my highest praise for The Wiz is that it was perfectly casted. Mary J. Blige was a splendor to behold. Queen Latifah commanded the stage. Uzo Aduba quite literally left me breathless (I’m apparently the only one who didn’t know she had a musical background. Godspell anyone?) So no matter what show they pick next year, as long as the cast is just as stellar as The Wiz, the audience won’t walk away feeling cheated by stunt casting shenanigans. And hey, who’s to say we can’t do a G-Rated version of Rent?! (NOTE: That was a joke. Please don’t do that.)
Hollywoodlifers, what did you think of The Wiz? And what show would you like them to do next year?