The Wiz: LIVE!
Songs By: Various Artists
Distributed by: Sony Music
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
When I was in junior high school, my school would show movies for the Honors Club members. Yeah, I was a nerd and got to see some of those movies. One of the films they showed was The Wiz, an urban version of the L. Frank Baum classic, The Wizard of Oz. Starring Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell, Mabel King, Lena Horne, Richard Pryor and more, I wasn't all too jazzed about the film, but the music stood out for me. I could still remember songs like Ease on Down the Road and Believe in Yourself and sing along with the lyrics.
So, when NBC announced that it would be airing The Wiz LIVE!, an all new live musical with a brand new cast, on December 3, 2015, I actually was excited to see it. Of course, I missed it - there's just so much going on this time of year. Happily, I received the soundtrack for review and I couldn't wait to check it out. After all, this new version of The Wiz starred Queen Latifah as The Wiz, Amber Riley as The Good Witch of the North, Ne-Yo as the Tin Man, David Allen Grier as The Cowardly Lion, Common as Oz's gatekeeper and Mary J. Blige as Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West. A surprise to some might have been the casting of Uzo Aduba as Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, but I wasn't surprised. After watching her in Orange Is the New Black, I had an inkling that Aduba had a decent singing voice and I was hoping I would be proven correct.
As I listened to The Wiz: LIVE!, I realized that I was really enjoying it. Sure, things start off with a slow, soft song - The Feeling We Once Had performed by Stephanie Mills as Aunt Em (interesting side note: Mills was Dorothy in the original Broadway version of The Wiz). But things pick up right away after the Tornado hits. I found myself singing along and tapping to the music. The cast is great and Shanice Williams makes a far more believable Dorothy than Diana Ross. In fact, I felt the version of Ease On Down the Road by Shanice Williams and Elijah Kelley was far better than the one performed by Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. I felt that the vocals of this new cast were not only stronger, but they blended together better. And Uzo Aduba - I just knew she could sing, but damn, what a voice!
Now that I've listened to and sang along with The Wiz: LIVE! a number of times, I can't wait to see the television special. Sure, it won't be live, but that's okay. I just want to see if I'll enjoy the rest of the performances as much as I did the singing. I definitely recommend checking out The Wiz: Live! Soundtrack for fans of the original film, the Broadway musical or just fans of the story itself.