NBC’s third live musical production, after The Sound of Music and Peter Pan will be The Wiz, the retelling of The Wizard of Oz with music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls.
While the actress playing the main character of Dorothy has not been announced, two other pivotal roles have been cast. Multi-threat Queen Latifah will play the Wizard while Mary J. Blige will be the Wicked Witch of the West.
Latifah started her career as a rapper with the Flavor Unit who also recorded some of her compositions. She eventually went solo, rapping mostly about the issues faced by African-American women before, fifteen years into her career, she switched to mainly singing soul and jazz. Along with a long list of hit singles and albums, she has also established herself as a major actress starting with a small role in the 1991 film Jungle Fever which led to much bigger parts in films like Chicago, Bringing Down the House, Hairspray and her current Emmy nominated role in Bessie. She has also had two runs with syndicated talk shows.
Blige has had an even more successful career as a recording artist with all twelve of her studio albums reaching the Billboard top ten. Mary has also branched out into acting, mainly in television, with appearances on New York Undercover, Moesha, Ghost Whisperer, Entourage, 30 Rock and, most recently, Empire.
The only other role that has been officially announced is the original Dorothy from Broadway, Stephanie Mills, who will now play Auntie Em. Mills opened in the show on January 5, 1975 with Hinton Battle as the Scarecrow, Tiger Haynes as the Tin Man, Ted Ross as the Lion, Dee Dee Bridgewater as Glinda, the Good Witch and Mabel King as the Wicked Witch of the West.
The Wiz was produced for the big screen starring Diana Ross as Dorothy with Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow, Nipsey Russell as the Tin Man, Lena Horne as Glinda, Richard Prior as The Wiz and Ted Ross and Mable King reprising their roles from Broadway.