NBC is going forward with “The Wiz” as its next live musical production.
The show will be executive produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron with Cirque du Soleil, whose new stage theatrical division will co-produce the live television event and then present it as a major Broadway revival for the 2016-17 season. Universal Television will produce.
“We love this yearly tradition and we’re more excited than ever to not only bring another Broadway musical to America’s living rooms, but also see it land on Broadway as well,” said NBC Entertainment chairman, Robert Greenblatt, in a statement.
He continued, “It’s a natural next step for our live musical events and we’re so pleased to be in business with this award-winning creative team and Scott Zeiger, President and Managing Director of Cirque du Soleil’s new theatrical division. 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.”
Zadan and Meron produced NBC’s previous live musical specials, “The Sound of Music Live!” and “Peter Pan Live!”
Casting for both the NBC telecast and Cirque du Soleil’s Broadway production will be announced at a later date.
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 Wiz” opened on Broadway in 1975 at the Majestic Theatre and won seven Tonys, including best musical. It ran for four years.
Tony winner and DGA nominee Kenny Leon (“A Raisin in the Sun”) will direct the NBC adaptation, while Harvey Fierstein (“La Cage Aux Folles”) will contribute new material to the original book.
“The Wiz” is a retelling of “The Wizard of Oz” in an African-American/multicultural context. Dorothy, a young woman from Kansas, is swept up in a tornado and relocated to a fantasy world that is inhabited by munchkins, good and bad witches, and, of course, flying monkeys. She eventually takes a path down a yellow brick road to find a wizard who can help her return home, and along the way meets a scarecrow, tin man and cowardly lion, who all learn to help one another.
The 1978 Motown/Universal film “The Wiz” stars Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell, Ted Ross, Mabel King, Theresa Merritt, Thelma Carpenter, Lena Horne and Richard Pryor.
Last December, NBC’s “Peter Pan Live” pulled in 9.1 million viewers in primetime. While undeniably a strong Thursday number, the count was less than half of the previous year’s “Sound of Music Live’s” 18.6 million total viewers, according to overnight numbers.
During January’s Television Critics Association press tour, Greenblatt revealed NBC was considering either “The Wiz” or “The Music Man” for its next special. Clearly, “The Wiz” won.