What's Worth Watching: The Wiz Live on NBC for Thursday, December 3

Matt Roush
The Wiz
Paul Gilmore/NBC

The Wiz Live (Thursday, Dec. 3, 8/7c, NBC)

As someone who loves a good musical, I'm more hopeful for the live broadcast of the Tony-winning The Wiz than I have been in the three years that NBC has been producing these holiday spectaculars. For one thing, instead of casting a famous leading lady who's all wrong for the main role—the wooden Carrie Underwood as The Sound of Music's Maria, the disastrous Allison Williams as Peter Pan—producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (Chicago) have chosen a relative unknown, Shanice Williams, to play an age-appropriate Dorothy (perhaps wiping out memories of the miscast Diana Ross as the woebegone star of the 1978 big-screen misfire). A star is born? Let's hope.

Another intriguing aspect of this new version of the funky Wizard of Oz redo: the amazing Cirque du Soleil's theatrical division is co-producing, with an eye towards a Broadway transfer. Maybe some of this terrific cast will be on board for the move, should it happen, including Queen Latifah as The Wiz, David Alan Grier as the Cowardly Lion, Ne-Yo as the Tin Man, Elijah Kelley as the Scarecrow, Mary J. Blige as the evil Evillene, Orange Is the New Black's Uzo Aduba as Glinda—and, in a sweet gesture providing a link to the past, Stephanie Mills (the Broadway Wiz's original Dorothy) as Aunt Em, who gets the first number, "The Feeling We Once Had." While this production is likely to go over the top as it goes over the rainbow, wouldn't it be great if this were to become the definitive version of this delightful entertainment.