Following the successful live broadcasts of “The Sound of Music” and “Peter Pan,” NBC will debut a new live television production of the hit Broadway musical The Wiz Dec. 3, Robert Greenblatt, chairman, NBC Entertainment, has announced.
Entering into a partnership with NBC on “The Wiz” — to be executive-produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron — is Cirque du Soleil, whose new stage theatrical division will co-produce the live TV event and then present it as a major Broadway revival for the 2016-17 season.
Tony Award-winning director Kenny Leon will stage both the television production and Broadway revival in collaboration with Tony winner Harvey Fierstein, who will contribute new material to the original Broadway book by William F. Brown.
“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,” said Greenblatt in a statement. “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.”
“We are delighted that NBC and Cirque du Soleil will present ‘The Wiz,’” added Zeiger. “It’s a musical I have wanted to produce for years and it’s the perfect show to present under the new Cirque du Soleil Theatrical banner.”
“We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to not only produce this as our next live musical for NBC, but to then see it move to Broadway for a new generation to experience,” said Zadan. “It will be a joy to work again with Kenny Leon, who did ‘Steel Magnolias’ and ‘Raisin in the Sun’ with us,” added Meron. Universal Television will produce. Casting for both the NBC telecast and Cirque du Soleil’s Broadway production will be announced at a later date.
William F. Brown wrote the book for the soulful contemporary retelling of L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” The Wiz also features music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls. The original 1974 production, directed by Geoffrey Holder and choreographed by George Faison, won seven Tony Awards including Best Musical. The premiere Broadway company featured Hinton Battle, Tiger Haynes, Stephanie Mills, Ted Ross, Dee Dee Bridgewater, André De Shields and Mabel King. Diana Ross and Michael Jackson starred in the film version.
The Tony Award-winning score includes “Home,” “Ease on Down the Road,” and “If You Believe,” among others. The musical, according to NBC, is described as such: “Dorothy, a young woman from Kansas, is swept up in a tornado and relocated to a fantasy world that is inhabited by munchkins, good and bad witches, and, of course, flying monkeys. She eventually takes a path down a yellow brick road to find a wizard who can help her go home and along the way meets a scarecrow, tin man and cowardly lion, who all learn to help one another.”