Mary J. Blige and Queen Latifah have been cast in NBC’s live version of the musical “The Wiz,” the network announced Tuesday.
Latifah will star 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.
Latifah, whose real name is Dana Owens, is a Golden Globe, Grammy and Screen Actors Guild Award winner, as well as having earned Emmy and Oscar nominations.
Ranked by Billboard as the top R&B performer of the past 25 years, Blige has sold more than 50 million albums and 25 million singles. She has released 12 albums, with her 1994 disc “My Life” considered by many prominent critics and music publications to be one of the greatest albums of all time.
Blige also has nine #1 albums setting a mark for a female artist. She has earned 30 Grammy nominations and won nine times.
“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.
Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (“The Sound of Music Live!,” “Peter Pan Live!,” Oscar-winning “Chicago”) will serve as executive producers. Kenny Leon (“A Raisin in the Sun”) will direct, with Harvey Fierstein (“Torch Song Trilogy,” “Hairspray” and “La Cage aux Folles”) providing new written material. Universal Television is producing in association with Cirque Du Soleil Theatrical.
“The Wiz Live” will premiere on NBC on December 3.