NBC's Scarecrow Has Big Shoes To Fill In 'The Wiz'

The cast of The Wiz movie adaptation was filled with accomplished celebrities who the stars of NBC's live production will have to emulate, none more so than the person playing the Scarecrow in The Wiz Live! Michael Jackson took on the role in the 1978 film, bringing all of his pop star skills to the character, from distinctive dance moves to his incredible vocal range. So, when Elijah Kelley plays the Scarecrow, he will be taking on the epic challenge of easing on down the road in Jackson's (and original Broadway Scarecrow Hinton Battle's) shoes. Luckily, based on his previous work, he should be up to the task on Dec. 3 when The Wiz Live! airs.

Even though Kelley is almost unrecognizable underneath the heavy makeup and costuming of the distinctive character, what will really stand out are his skills at singing and dancing, two things that are obviously very important for a live musical performance. Even though he's not really a household name yet, Kelley hopefully will be after he performs live on NBC, because he has the skills, and seems to work perfectly with the rest of the wonderful cast. While the rest of NBC's live musicals have been wildly entertaining, it seems like so far, The Wiz Live! might have the most talented cast yet. Here's what you should know about the latest performer to become the Scarecrow.

He Performed Fabulously With The Rest Of The Cast

At the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the cast of The Wiz Live! performed a dance number that looked great, and Kelley seamlessly fit in.

He Was In Hairspray

It's Kelley's performance in Hairspray that will be his biggest benefit while preparing for The Wiz Live! The musical is larger than life, and he worked as a supporting character in a big cast, yet still managed to stand out.

His Performance In Red Tails Ties Him To The Wiz Live!

The impressive cast of Red Tails included two future stars of The Wiz Live! working together for the first time: Kelley and Ne-Yo, who plays the Tin Man.

Strange Magic Proves His Musical Abilities

In the eccentric animated film Strange Magic, Kelley had to sing pop songs like "Three Little Birds," which should get him ready for '70s classics like "Ease on Down the Road."

He's Been Dancing Onscreen Since Take The Lead

Jackson's dance moves as the Scarecrow helped define The Wiz film, so it's a tall order for someone to follow. But Kelley's already done one dance movie, Take the Lead, and is clearly talented.

The Wiz Live! Actually Looks Pretty Great

According to The Making of The Wiz Live , choreographer Fatima Robinson worked with Michael Jackson, and the original Dorothy from the Broadway show, Stephanie Mills, who will play Auntie Em in NBC's production. It seems like everyone involved in this live remake is dedicated to creating a great tribute to the original, and casting Kelley as the Scarecrow only helps that goal.

Image: Paul Gilmore/NBC