You've got Queen Latifah as the Wiz, Uzo Aduba as Glinda, Amber Riley as Addaperle, Ne-Yo as Tin Man — heck, Common (last year's Academy Award winner for best song, no less) will be making an a appearance as The Bouncer. Suffice it to say that the cast of The Wiz Live! boasts quite the roster of all-stars. Taken altogether, there will be enough star power and vocal range on screen Thursday night to sustain a small country. But who will play the Cowardly Lion in NBC's latest live musical?
As it turns out, David Alan Grier will be taking on the iconic role — and luckily for us, Grier, who you might recognize from his stint on In Living Color back in the '90s (and, more recently, as the patriarch on The Carmichaels) is no stranger to live theater. He graduated with an MFA from the Yale School of Drama and has starred in quite the collection of productions since. He was even nominated for a Tony Award for his work in Broadway musical The First, in which he portrayed Jackie Robinson, and played the role of James "Thunder" Early in the first production of Dreamgirls from 1981 to 1984.
More recently, he starred in the star-studded 2012 Broadway revival of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess (another Tony-nominated production) — he played Sportin' Life, and showed that he's more than up to all the singing, dancing, and showmanship sure to come his way in The Wiz. Take a look:
Pretty flippin' fantastic, no? It's no wonder that his turn as Sportin' Life earned him both a Tony and a Grammy nomination.
With all that in mind, it should be pretty exciting to watch stage and screen veteran Grier tackle a live TV musical, especially alongside such an all-star cast. People had a lot of fun Twitter-deriding The Sound of Music Live! and Peter Pan Live! but could The Wiz Live! finally be the production to flip the script on us? With Grier poised to make another star turn as the Cowardly Lion, they just might.
After all, as his co-star Shanice Williams told The New York Post, "He's the funniest person I ever met in my life ... I'm gonna have abs at the end of this, just from laughing." Combine that with the talents of Grier's fellow stars, and it seems The Wiz Live! really could become one of NBC's greatest productions when it airs on Thursday at 8 p.m.
Image: Paul Gilmore/NBC