Everything We Know About The Wiz Live! Ahead of Its Premiere
IT'S THE SAME CLASSIC STORY – WITH A MODERN TWIST
For NBC's live broadcast, the team behind The Wiz made sure to stay true to the story and music that fans have known and loved for years – meaning, yes, all of your favorite numbers are present and accounted for. Still, they added a few touches to make the production even more of a showstopper: "It's the same classic story. It's a family story for everyone, and it's just updated," Stephanie Mills, who plays Auntie Em, told PEOPLE. "I mean, we thought we were doing something when the Munchkins were on rollers and rolling around, but now, when you see Cirque du Soleil doing it, it's just incredible."
AND THAT INCLUDES THE HIGH-FASHION COSTUMES
"We're creating a fantasy land that also is inspired by some of the imagery you'd see today," the show's Tony-nominated costume designer Paul Tazewell told PEOPLE. "It's the edgiest of high-fashion from now, but in the world of the Emerald City." While Dorothy's look was meant to reflect a "modern teenager," the other characters got a more avant-garde makeover, including the "fashion-forward" Scarecrow (Elijah Kelly) and a Cowardly Lion (David Alan Grier) with "a mane made out of dreads."
NEWCOMER SHANICE WILLIAMS BEAT OUT THOUSANDS FOR THE LEAD ROLE
For the role of Dorothy, The Wiz's producers decided against casting a well-known actress, and instead set off to find an unknown superstar-in-waiting at a series of open auditions. At one open call in New York, 19-year-old Shanice Williams blew producers away with her talent, and landed her first professional role. "I've never done anything like this before. I don't know what's in store," Williams told NBC after being cast. "So, I'm just excited to take everything one step at a time."
BUT THE ROLE OF AUNTIE EM WENT TO A FAMILIAR FACE
Mills, who's taking on the role of Dorothy's Auntie Em, actually originated the role of Dorothy when The Wiz opened on Broadway in 1975, and she couldn't be more excited to return to the show that launched her career. "It's very emotional for me to sit back and watch them do this because I remember when I was in rehearsal for the first time at the theater," she gushed. "And who knew that The Wiz would last 40 years? It's really, really wonderful." And she's been quick to offer advice to Williams every step of the way. "One of the best pieces of advice she's given me is to always stay humble and live in the moment because I'm not ever going to get this opportunity again," Williams told PEOPLE.
AND SHE'S NOT THE ONLY ONE
The star-studded cast includes Mary J. Blige as Eveline, the Wicked Witch of the West, Uzo Aduba as Glinda and Queen Latifah as the Wiz herself. As she makes her way way to the Emerald City, Dorothy will be joined by Elijah Kelly as the Scarecrow, Ne-Yo as the Tin Man and David Alan Grier as the Cowardly Lion.
THE CAST STILL HAS LARGE SHOES TO FILL
Between its acclaimed Broadway run and the beloved 1978 film adaptation, The Wiz has seen some incredible stars make their way down the yellow brick road, including Diana Ross as Dorothy and Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow. Since many of the cast grew up admiring those performances, they're doing their best to honor those who danced through Oz before them. "I don't want to outdo Mike. I don't want to overdo," Kelly said of taking over the role of the Scarecrow. Still, that doesn't mean he's not going to give it all when the curtain rises: "I'm not intimidated," he added. "I'm not scared."
THE BROADCAST IS SET TO MAKE HISTORY
In order to ensure everyone tuning in to the broadcast – whether they're old fans or newbies experiencing the show's magic for the first time – gets to experience the same thrill of seeing The Wiz on their screens, NBC is making the event accessible to viewers who are visually impaired. For the first time ever, a live broadcast will have audio video description, which will narrate the what's happening on screen with just the touch of a button.
THE SHOW STARTS AT 8
There's not much longer to go before the curtain rises on The Wiz Live!, which kicks off on December 3 at 8 p.m. on NBC. Trust us, you don't want to miss it.