Forget 'Music Man', NBC Should Totally Do 'The Wiz' As Their Next Live Musical
Shipoopi! NBC's next live musical just got way more exciting. Sure, when it looked like a given that they were doing The Music Man, I got my hopes up that John Hamm would play Harold Hill. However, it appears that The Wiz could be NBC's next live musical instead. Leave all 76 trombones behind, NBC! This is a much better idea. According to Entertainment Weekly's report,
Robert Greenblatt said 1957’s The Music Man will be the network’s live musical this year. Or it will be the 1975 The Wizard of Oz update The Wiz. One of those.
I'm confused as to their indecision. Why "one of those," NBC? That's such a tease. What, are they waiting on MTI to give them the rights? To clarify that bit of Broadway inside baseball, Musical Theatre International holds the licensing rights for many plays and musicals. This probably won't be the case for NBC, as the film version of The Wiz, which starred Diana Ross as Dorothy, was produced in New York by Universal Studios, a current affiliate of the network.
I think the decision here is pretty obvious. The Music Man suffers from the same issues that Sound of Music and Peter Pan does. It's too long for television. It's even older than the two proceeding shows. There's all this business with a barbershop quartet and the old ladies at the church. I'm a boring traditionalist sometimes, and I love this show, but I can see audiences getting bored.
The Wiz is, as NBC executives noted, a retelling of The Wizard of Oz. It's a familiar story that appeals to all ages. It's also set in New York City. I don't know if you've noticed this after 30 Rock, SNL, or even the fact that they do live musicals, but NBC is obsessed with New York. What better way to celebrate the city? But that's far from the only reason.
Most importantly, this is a necessary move for diversity in the entertainment industry. The Wiz is led by a complicated female character in an all-black cast! Television is often streets ahead, and this is just what we need after such disappointingly white Oscar nominations this week. The movie was filled with Motown legends including Lena Horne, Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, and comedians Mabel King and Richard Pryor. Think what The Wiz would be like for our generation. NBC has worked with legendary actresses Diahnn Carroll, Phylicia Rashad, and Debbie Allen.
In the more recent past, NBC has the business cards of musical theatre stars Audra MacDonald, Jesse L. Martin, Leslie Odom Jr. and Jennifer Hudson. That's just from Smash and Sound of Music Live. There are so many television and film stars that could be cast in this. The Good Wife's Anika Noni Rose is the voice of Princess Tiana and was in Dreamgirls. Think about Uzo Aduba, whose character Suzanne on OITNB has crippling stage fright, but who has an incredible voice in real life.
May I draw your attention to Tony Winner Patina Miller? I'm throwing her name out there for Dorothy.
Also, I'm not even scratching the surface of which recording artists could pull a Carrie Underwood and take a star turn. Janelle Monae has a musical theatre background. Guys, what if NBC could get Bruno Mars to play the Scarecrow? Let me say that one more time and let the genius really settle in your brain, if you have one — what if they could get Bruno Mars to play the Scarecrow?
Nobody is falling asleep during The Wiz. Nobody.
The Bottom Line
Look, I just don't think NBC can tempt us with The Wiz and then back off and do The Music Man. NBC also wants to do a production of Aaron Sorkin's A Few Good Men live next year as well, so that creates a good balance of content. If this really bums you out, and you were really looking forward to The Music Man Live? I guess you can try using the "Think System" to sway NBC's mind. Or... just watch this Family Guy clip instead.
Images: MovieClips/YouTube; Giphy