Surprise! NBC’s latest live musical was actually fabulous. But then again, perhaps our surprise in itself surprising, given that The Wiz was front-loaded with a celebrity-packed cast (in fine voice and even finer camp), decadent Broadway-ready design, a wickedly talented 19-year-old unknown star, and a score of famous funky delights.
But for all of the ways The Wiz Live! was obviously poised for success, social media sure posed its fair share of burning questions throughout the night.
Where did Toto go?
According to Wizard of Oz mythos, Dorothy’s low-maintenance dog companion should have been a constant sidecar to the gang of Yellow Brick Roaders, but the pup in question was on NBC’s screen for a whopping, like, two minutes, tops. Toto appeared only at the beginning and the end of the telecast; ostensibly, the added pressure of working with a live animal on a three-hour live broadcast may be understandably too great, but narratively The Wiz‘s Toto isn’t treated the same way as The Wizard of Oz‘s Toto, anyway. Even if he was just hanging out backstage with Kelli O’Hara, the dog’s absence was thoroughly noticed by the audience with a severe case of Toto FOMO.
Who was responsible for Queen Latifah’s contouring?
Artists Dave and Lou Elsey designed the makeup for Latifah’s green-and-white Wiz-slash-Riddler, but those cheekbones were just the beginning of the conversation where Latifah’s fashion is concerned. How about her robe in the scene where the gang discovers she’s a sham? Or her breezy, earth-tone travel outfit for her air balloon flight back to Omaha? Ann Taylor Loft Live! or Target Live! in 2016, please.
Is Ne-Yo made of tin?
No! He’s a human! You can tell from things like his teeth and voice and pulse! But you might have forgotten that since the singer disappeared so completely into his role as the Tin Man, offering the kind of show-stopping performance that makes you turn to your bottle of sauvignon blanc and say, “Whoa, has he done this before?!” And rest assured, it’s perfectly acceptable to suddenly find yourself attracted to tin after that jazzy “Slide Some Oil to Me,” in which Dorothy lubricates the Tin Man’s mind, and he in turn lubricates so many other things.
Was Mary J. Blige born to cackle at underlings and dance with shovels?
Why didn’t we see Uzo Aduba’s Glinda until the end?
Social media seemed to be wildly confused that the Good Witch of the South didn’t appear until the very end of the show. But guys, this is The Wiz, not The Wizard of Oz! One of the big narrative differences is the swapping of the witches, with Glinda taking a backseat to the action and letting Addaperle, the Good Witch of the North, take her place. Don’t get me started on why Glinda suddenly decides to get involved and help after the obstacles have already been conquered … but the point is, if you can’t handle me at my Addaperle you don’t deserve me at my Glinda. Speaking of …
Why was Amber Riley dressed like Candy Crush?
Typically the Munchkins are all dressed in hardcore blue, which would have made Addaperle’s aqua explosion more understandable in context, but since the Munchkins here adopted a warm-tone orange palette, Riley looked ridiculous even by Oz standards.
Why was the Emerald City a club?
Ask yourself, why wouldn’t it be?! This is a city where the entire economy, government, and class culture is based on a shared interest in one color. The elaborate haute couture of the Emerald City surprised some viewers, but is a sudden burst of pulsing vogue so wrong? The most ostentatious city in Oz was a perfect equation of Moulin Rouge, drag ball, women in green leotards wearing empty guacamole bowls, the Capitol in Hunger Games, and by and large my Saturday nights.
With that voice, how is Shanice only 19!?!?
She was born in 1996.
Why was Dorothy so chill with murdering?
Meanwhile, the kids on How to Get Away With Murder can’t step on an ant without a nine-episode flashback.
Why didn’t people hate-watch?
Considering the aforementioned ingredients, NBC’s approach to this year’s musical seemed to stem from one key internal conversation which I imagine to be, “Hey, let’s actually cast this thing well this year.” Opting for celebrities in virtually every role instead of just a showy one or two principals did a few things that benefitted the whole aura of the production. The onus of critical pressure disappears from the key headliners (and lightens the burden on the put-upon ensemble), and the presentation’s inherent cheesiness thereby spreads itself out among the stars, so that everyone shares in the camp instead of accidentally hoards it.
Why isn’t the album on iTunes yet?!
The producers have dabbled in the idea of The Music Man, a story which I’ve long thought would be a no-brainer to set in the modern day with a hip-hop hipster bringing music to uninspired masses (is Lin-Manuel Miranda free?). But if they opt against Harold Hill, and with Fox already claiming Grease for next year, the list of family-friendly, aurally-recognizable musicals that tick all the boxes for NBC grows more limited. I’d be shocked if 2016’s production isn’t West Side Story — or, if the bandage from Quvenzhane has wounded, Annie.