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Although many think of the classic soul music musical The Wiz as a film, it actually got its start as a theater play. NBC announced Monday (Mar. 30) that it will air its next live musical in conjunction with the high-flying Cirque du Soleil troupe later this year.

The Wiz, written by Charlie Smalls and William F. Brown, debuted in 1974 at Baltimore’s Morris A. Mechanic Theater. It went to Broadway in 1975, winning seven Tony Awards and opened up the traditionally white theater scene to the idea of an all-Black cast. A film adaptation featuring Michael Jackson, Diana Ross and Richard Pryor debuted in 1978.

The updated stage version of The Wiz is part of NBC’s live musical series and brings back former collaborators and executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. The pair worked on the live versions of Sound Of Music and Peter Pan. Tony Award-winning director Kenny Leon is slated to direct the performance and will also take over those duties when the play moves to Broadway next year.

The Hollywood Reporter has more:

“We love this yearly tradition and we’re more excited than ever to not only bring another Broadway musical to America’s living rooms, but also see it land on Broadway as well,” NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt said. “It’s a natural next step for our live musical events, and we’re so pleased to be in business with this award-winning creative team and Scott Zeiger, president and managing director of Cirque du Soleil’s new theatrical division. Cirque’s incredible imagination will help bring the fantasy world of Oz vividly to life and give this great show a modern spin on the age-old story we all love.”


The Wiz is a retelling of Oz in an African-American/multicultural context. It was adapted as a film in 1978 starring Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Lena Horne and Richard Pryor. It centers on Dorothy, a young woman from Kansas, who is swept up in a tornado and relocated to a fantasy world inhabited by munchkins, good and bad witches, and flying monkeys. She eventually takes a path down a yellow brick road to find a wizard who can help her go home. Along the way, she meets a scarecrow, tin man and cowardly lion, who all learn to help one another.

The Wiz will make its live debut Dec. 3, 2015.

Photo: Fair Use/Wikipedia Commons