‘The Wiz Live!’ was the blackest thing on television Thursday night — in more ways than one
Shanice Williams performs as Dorothy during a dress rehearsal of “The Wiz Live!” in New York.(Virginia Sherwood / NBC)
Ne-Yo as Tin-Man, from left, Shanice Williams as Dorothy and Elijah Kelley as Scarecrow work in a dress rehearsal of “The Wiz Live!” in New York.(Virginia Sherwood / NBC)
Amber Riley as Addapearle, center, and Shanice Williams as Dorothy.(Virginia Sherwood/NBC)
David Alan Grier as Lion, from left, Ne-Yo as Tin-Man, Shanice Williams as Dorothy, Elijah Kelley as Scarecrow and Common as the Bouncer during a dress rehearsal of “The Wiz Live!” in New York.(Virginia Sherwood/NBC via AP)
Queen Latifah serves up a dose of scary as the Wiz during a dress rehearsal of “The Wiz Live!” in New York.(Virginia Sherwood / NBC)
Mary J Blige as Evillene during a dress rehearsal of “The Wiz Live!” in New York.(Virginia Sherwood/NBC)
Amber Riley as Addapearle, center, and Shanice Williams as Dorothy.(Virginia Sherwood / NBC)
Shanice Williams as Dorothy, left, and Stephanie Mills as Auntie Em during a dress rehearsal of “The Wiz Live!” in New York.(Virginia Sherwood / NBC)
Stephanie Mills portrays Auntie Em, left, and Shanice Williams portrays Dorothy in “The Wiz Live!”(Virginia Sherwood / NBC)
It has to be said that Thursday night's "The Wiz Live!" was the blackest thing on television — and perhaps one of the blackest productions on broadcast cable since at least the first season of "Empire."
With Queen Latifah as the all-powerful Wiz, newcomer Shanice Williams as Dorothy and a slew of other black Hollywood heavyweights, in front of and behind the camera, the show was set up to succeed. And that it did!
But more than just having black people in these roles (the production is a retelling of "The Wizard of Oz" that was at one time both a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical and a movie — with Diana Ross and Michael Jackson), the show succeeded in further modernizing a tale already beloved by mostly black audiences — which can be a big task in the world of Black Twitter.
But when such a display of black excellence takes over our lives, who are we to protest? Below are some of the highlights from the one-night-only production, and they all prove just how wonderfully black "The Wiz Live!" rightfully was.
Stephanie Mills' great return
Black people love legends in our community, and if they're black, even better. Once you're at the top, it's very hard to slide out of good graces with us, even if perhaps your greatest claim to fame was eons ago (no shade!). Mills' cameo as Auntie Em, after she played Dorothy in the Broadway iteration, was a beautiful moment to watch. Much like it is when Phylicia Rashad or Loretta Devine or Cicely Tyson pop up in a film, or old R&B groups like New Edition or SWV give the performance of their lives at the BET Awards, it's always great to see they've still got it.
And Mills deserves all the awards: skin evidence that "black don't crack," voice still smooth like buttah and acting as if an Oscar were on the other side of the commercial break.
Poppies get it poppin'
The choreography, by the famed Fatima Robinson, was — as the kids say — lit! In the scene with the Lion and the seductive poppies, we see it best. They dropped it like it was hot, rolled around in it like it was warm and shimmied and shook till the cows came home. The natural rhythm of motherland was on pure display as those red fishnet-clad body rolls made their entrance and exit.
Ebonics on a hundred
African American vernacular English was on full, unapologetic display for the nearly three-hour production. No one cared to sanitize the language in a way to make it universally understood, and it was delivered without a care in the world.
Queering Emerald City
Once the gang talked their way into the
club Emerald City, they were accosted by an onslaught of fabulousness. In glittering green, men and women paid homage to the underground ballroom community of primarily black and Latino gay and transgender men and women, the inspiration behind Madonna's 1990 hit "Vogue." And they did it justice, doling out life and life more abundantly for at-home audiences.
Mary J. Blige takes us to (black) church
Throughout the entire show, a Baptist choir had to have been hanging off stage bringing an undeniable black church vibe to the musical numbers. But when MJB took center stage, the angels from on high descended. (And a tambourine player was somewhere getting her life!) True to any black church, Mary #HitTheQuan and the background dancers incorporated some stepping for the perfect blend of the religious and secular.
Dorothy's womanism moment
When Tin Man (Ne-Yo), Scarecrow (Elijah Kelley) and the Lion (David Alan Grier) discovered the Wiz was a fabulous fair maiden, they seemed a little surprised. Without skipping a beat, with all the sass in her neck and attitude in her hip, Dorothy checked the fellas for their ignorance.
And if you don't know what "womanism" is, Google Alice Walker.
Get your life! Follow me on Twitter: @TrevellAnderson.
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