The Wiz Live draws huge numbers: 11 million viewers despite confusion over all-black cast

It was a highly anticipated live television moment that was lauded by critics when NBC aired a three-hour adaptation of the Broadway musical The Wiz on Thursday night.

The musical is based on The Wizard of Oz, the movie featuring all white characters that was adapted from the classic L. Frank Baum novel.

However, even though the 1975 show was written to feature an all-black cast – and the network stayed true to the script – social media erupted during the screening with calls of racism.

Several viewers took to Twitter to express their disdain about the event, accusing NBC of being discriminatory.

Despite the hilarious, and at times offensive, confusion of some, the show scored huge numbers for NBC, with 11.1million people tuning in for the television event.

One user tweeted to the major network: ‘Minorities act like they’re the victims, but can you imagine if we made an all-white version of The Wiz?’

Another user wrote: ‘why are there no whites starring in #TheWiz? this is racist! can u imagine if it were the other way? #whitelivesmatter #TheWizLive.’

Additionally, a viewer posted: ‘#TheWiz on @NBC is a PC Disaster. An all-black Wizard of Oz? Give me a freaking break. I could say that’s racist but…’

Others were more positive as one wrote: ‘@nbc it has been the other way before and we don’t complain about all white casting, i.e the notebook, 500 days of summer..etc.’

NBC have not yet commented on the complaints.

It is most likely the complainants did not realize that The Wiz was written as a retelling of the classic story from an African-American context of The Wizard of Oz.

Penned by composer Charlie Smalls, the show won a Tony award and was adapted into a film in 1978 starring Michael Jackson, Dianna Ross and Richard Pryor.

The numbers for The Wiz far surpassed the 9.21million who watched last year’s Peter Pan but fell short of the first live production of The Sound of Music in 2013, which drew 18.6million viewers.

The show even came close to beating Thursday’s epic football game between the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions – an unheard of feat – but fell just short.

The musical similarly featured several talented stars including Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, Common, David Alan Grier, Ne-Yo, Uzo Aduba, Elijah Kelley and Shanice Williams as Dorothy Gale.

The show begins much like the 1939 classic by showing the life of a rural family as Dorothy attempts to run away after her dog Toto was taken away as she exclaimed: ‘You can’t run away from home if you’re not home to start with.’

Stephanie Mills, who starred in the original Broadway musical as Dorothy, portrayed Dorthy’s Aunt Em as she sung the first song of the event: The Feeling We Once Had.

Star of the show: Shanice Williams played the main character of the special: Dorothy Gale

Several actors dressed in intricate costumes mimicked the storm as Dorthy gets caught up in the whirlwind and is even carried up by wires.

She awakens and finds herself in the majestic land of Oz as the home lands on top of the Wicked Witch Of The East killing her.

Dorothy is then gifted the blinged-out shimmering silver heels by The Good Witch of the North played by Glee’s Amber Riley

Dorothy meets a cast of characters including a few witches as she tries to find her way to meet the Wizard by following the yellow brick road.

The first of Dorothy’s gang that she runs into is the Scarecrow, played by Elijah Kelley, who is on the search for a brain but stuck in a predicament as he is surrounded by crows who break out into a song called You Can’t Win.

Dorothy then makes a stand as she tells the crows: ”I already killed one Wicked Witch today and I wasn’t even mad at her,’ leaving the crows to back down.

They then run into the Tin-Man, played by Ne-Yo, who needs oil to be able to sing and move. The character joins the group as he is searching for a heart.

When they continue on their journey they run into the Cowardly Lion, played by David Allen Grier, who sings a song about being a ‘mean old lion.’ He too joins the crew in search of courage.

In la la land: After meeting an odd cast of characters, she meets one helpful one in The Good Witch of the North played by Glee's Amber Riley

After a ballad about the lion’s courage titled Be A Lion, the group run into dangerous poppies, whom Dorothy was previously warned about.

Common is shown as the Bouncer, the gatekeeper to the Wizard of Oz’s property, and denies the group entrance into the gates but after Dorothy explains that she is wearing the Wicked Witch of the East’s shoes and talked about her journey, she is led right in.

There is another hold up as several others tell the group they do not want to meet The Wiz as one said: ‘I can’t imagine what he’d do to a little girl…you don’t want to go in there.’

However they allow the group to go through as they spot Dorothy’s shoes.

Heading out: Dorothy showed off her new blinged out silver shoes, which became a big part of the story

They finally meet The Wiz, portrayed by Queen Latifah, and the group is scared off as they run into a powerful song sung by the 45-year-old hitmaker.

Each of the characters tell The Wiz what they want out of their visit as they are intimidated by her strong tone.

Ne-Yo’s solo was next – a slow track called What Would I Do If I Could Feel.

The Wiz agrees to grant the crew their wishes under one condition; they kill the Wicked Witch of the West named Evillene.

Stuck: The duo then run into Tin Man, played by Ne-Yo, at a scrapyard

The Cowardly Lion, Tin Man and Scarecrow and Tin Man seem uninterested in completing the mission but they break out into song as Dorothy tries to convince the tree creatures. 

They eventually begin singing in total harmony and agree to not give up on the mission.

The Wicked Witch of the West Evillene, portrayed by Mary J. Blige, is revealed in a big flowy black dress as she yells at all her servants then goes into the song Don’t Nobody Bring Me No Bad News.

After the song, she is alerted that Dorothy and the gang are on their way to kill her and at one point Blige says: ‘So Dorothy thinks she can march her skinny as* up in here and destroy me?’

Then seems to have forgot her lines a bit as she stumbles on her words before she said ‘I know how to handle a brat like that.’

Evillene then she proceeds to unleash her wicked warriors portrayed by Cirque du Soleil performers as they capture the group in a net.

The group are now under the rule of Evillene as Dorothy begins to argue with her as she says: ‘You know what? You ain’t even got game enough to be wicked, you’re just plain old, everyday, passable mean.’

Evillene says, ‘Before you go casting shade I’d take yourself a good look in the mirror,’ then it will be over if she gives back her sister’s shoes but Dorothy refused as she made a promise.

Evillene then says she is going to eat the lion when Dorothy splashes water on the witch, who gets electrocuted and dies, as Dorothy says: ‘Oh lord, I did it again.’

All those that worked under the witch celebrate with a song and dance to Brand New Day.

Ticket in: One of them pointed out Dorothy's shoes and also let them pass

Ticket in: One of them pointed out Dorothy’s shoes and also let them pass

They go back to The Wiz’s palace as they speak to a big statue who says that they cannot grant the wish, the group proceeds to pull the plug on the statue as they find ‘The Wiz’ dressed up in a robe as they find out she is a phony and actually a woman.

The Wiz proceeds to admit ‘I’m nothing but a hustler from Omaha’ before saying she holds no actual powers.

Queen does encourage each of the members as she tells them that they already possess what they want before the crew encourages her to let them use her balloon to make it back to Omaha.

Queen’s character reveals her true self to the people of Oz as she addresses them with a speech as she said: ”It’s not enough to know where you’re going, you also got to know where you’re coming from.’

She then broke out into Y’all Got It and when it is time to fly away, Dorothy chooses to stay with the group instead of going with The Wiz.

The Good Witch of the North returns and Dorothy asks to home home but brings in The Good Witch of The South named Glinda, played by Uzo Aduba.

The Good Witch of The South draped in an intricate gold outfit made of what looked like hair tells Dorothy ‘The magic is inside of you,’ before breaking out into Believe In Yourself which tells her to ‘click her heels three times then she will be there.’

She proceeds to say goodbye to her partners in crime by kissing them all on the cheek and breaking out into an emotional song Home.

Dorothy clicks her heels to be greeted by her dog Toto and her aunt Em.

The Wiz was originally a Broadway play in the Seventies featuring an urbanised retelling of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in the context of African-American culture.

A big-budget adaptation was made for film starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson and was released in 1978.

Source: The DailyMail

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