I mean, come on. Did you see that star? That alleged ‘rookie’, Shanice Williams? Did you see her kill this show, without breaking a sweat? What a blast that was to watch. It’s not just people being nice (when have you ever heard of people being nice on Twitter?) Look at the reaction she got from the rest of the cast:
Of course, because she was so spectacular (I’ve listened to Home four times this morning alone) and got massive shout-outs from people like Kristen Chenoweth and Audra McDonald, it would be easy to make the whole review of the show about her—but there was so much more. And you know it, you musical nerd.
Did you cry? Did you get up in the middle of your living room and dance? Or were you bound and determined to play with the other Live-Tweeters, and then there was so little to snark about that the zingers weren’t necessary? The best thing I saw was a tweet showing the Hamilton cast watching The Wiz backstage. (You didn’t think I was going to let this go by without a Hamilton reference, did you?)
In fact, the show was so strong it was hard for me to remember that it was live. Sure, there were occasional set-move bumps, but they didn’t phase anyone. Nobody forgot a line, or seemed out of place, or knocked together. Almost as if it were an intrinsically better production than the past two years, hmmm? I got goosebumps on my couch, I can’t imagine being there in person.
That’s not to say it was flawless. Parts were – those costumes! Elijah Kelley’s scarecrow shed hay at every opportunity and I just assumed it was on purpose. I also assume Ne-Yo is washing silver paint out of his ears until at least Saturday. And I want every Munchkin and Emerald City outfit in my closet.
But relative to, say, Stephanie Mills and MARY J BLIGE, Queen Latifah was not so much a powerful live singer, though she’s every bit the performer. Common is awesome to look at and has inspired a whole cottage industry of Halloween costumes, but he was underplaying the part just a little, for a live television musical, right? And I wish the camera had been on Dorothy and the Tin Man during ‘and what’s wrong with being a woman?’ I feel like there were fun reactions there that were missed.
But the music and dancing in this musical was amazing. I loved We Got This. I had deep emotions in To Be Able To Feel. I didn’t know I’d had a crush on Ne-Yo all this time until now. I have always loved Brand New Day, but I didn’t always cry in Home. And by the way, do you have any idea how hard it is to sing and dance at the same time during Ease On Down The Road? That is the greatest cardio you can do, actually.
(Interlude: WHY isn’t there a Musical Theatre fitness class? OMG. )
But the reason I know why it’s hard to sing and dance during this musical is part of why it’s important.
I taught a musical theatre class to 8-12 year olds in our suburban town one year when I was 16. My also-teenaged co-teacher and I paged through the books of available musicals, and thought ‘an R&B Wizard Of Oz’ would make sense to the age of the kids we were teaching, as opposed to, say, Jesus Christ Superstar. We then proceeded to mount an all-white pre-teen version of The Wiz.
I mean, we were kids – both performers and teachers. We didn’t know any better. And while it was maybe an…uninformed…choice in retrospect, I’m glad they – and I – got exposed to this show, because it’s a great musical that has languished for too long (and I’ve since heard that there were lots of productions like ours).
But I can’t deal with the fact that there are people on Twitter who are apparent adults, who were complaining about the fact that the show was all-black. Are there really people in the world who i) are this ignorant to the fact that this is the third ‘professional’ incarnation of this show and ii) actually think this incredible, once-in-a-lifetime cast takes something away from the show?
Don’t answer that.
Instead, think about the fact that this show is preparing for a real-life Broadway run. It seems better because it is better. Pray that Uzo Aduba’s schedule allows her to appear on Broadway, flowing down from the sky like a sleepy constellation. Imagine lines of little girls auditioning to be Dorothy. Think of all the roles Amber Riley should have, and I hope are hitting her management’s inbox as we speak. How much fun it’s going to be to have Emerald City dance parties?
No joke, this one is staying on the PVR. About to be a new Christmas classic in my house, and on a loop all brand-new day.