We’re off to see the wizard! NBC is taking a trip to Oz this Thursday for its third annual live musical production — the network has chosen The Wiz as its 2015 Broadway adaptation, set to air on Thursday, Dec. 3.
This year, producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron have partnered with Cirque du Soleil to co-produce the event — which will then transfer to Broadway for the 2016-17 season.
The Wiz, of course, is a more modern, urban take on L. Frank Baum’s classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz — and of course the beloved 1939 film starring Judy Garland — and won seven Tonys during its original 1975 run on Broadway. While the musical followed the Kansas/Tornado storyline from the books, the 1978 film adaptation starred Diana Ross as Harlem schoolteacher Dorothy as she was transported to Oz, aka a fantasy version of New York City, with Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow and Richard Pryor as The Wiz.
Almost instantly as the news spread there were rumors and everybody posted their dream cast. Leading the way was Usher or Chris Brown as Scarecrow.
It was also brought up that Earthquake was cast as the cowardly lion, Pharrell as the Tin Man, Kanye West as the all and powerful Wiz, Evillene played by Taraji P. Henson, Beyonce as Glinda, the Good Witch of the South and Zendaya as Dorthy.
Although neither Chris Brown or Usher publicly express interest in the role in the end a relatively unknown beat out everybody for the coveted part as Scarecrow including Ne-yo who later landed the role as the Tin Man.
Though he was cast as The Tin Man, Ne-Yo tells Rollingout.com that he sought a different role in the project.
“I initially auditioned for the part of the Scarecrow — y’know, Michael Jackson was such a huge influence for me so I figured I’d wanna go out for that,” he reveals with a chuckle. “But I wound up being the Tin-Man, which I am in no way, shape, form or fashion mad at. I was just prepared to audition for the Scarecrow. I learned the lines all the way through and all the songs — the whole nine. My audition for the Tin-Man took 10 minutes. I went in the back room for a second and memorized as much as I could, didn’t really know any of the songs and I thought ‘They definitely won’t be calling me back for the Tin-Man.’ But I got the call-back! It was kind of bittersweet because I wanted the Scarecrow, but when they told me who was playing the Scarecrow, a good friend of mine, a brother of mine, named Elijay Kelly. He did Red Tails with me, the George Lucas movie. We met on that set and we’ve been brothers ever since. So I was like ‘He’s got the chops. He can definitely pull this off.’ ”
The demanding workload, makeup and choreography have been a labor of love for the cast, and Ne-Yo says that his having no theater experience hasn’t been a huge hindrance in his approach to the work.
“I’ve never done anything theater or like this before. So I had no expectations,” he says. When I’m walking into something that I’ve never done before, I try not to set any expectations. That way you can’t be disappointed if your expectations aren’t met. I just came in ready to work. I didn’t know exactly what all it was gonna be — rehearsals are a good six to eight hours every day, the scripts and the songs and the choreography — all day long. So it’s a workload. But what was unexpected was how everybody is all on the same page. Everybody’s working toward the exact same goal and that’s rare. Not only on the same page, but also working twenty times harder than necessary because everybody wants it to be as good as possible.”
Category: Celebrity news