Since NBC aired its first live performance in 2013, the expectations for the special have always been high. Unfortunately for the network, in Peter Pan's case, the ratings were low, and in The Sound Of Music's case, the reviews were middling at best. So when NBC announced that it would take on Charlie Smalls' The Wiz, some might have expected a flop. But, much to this reader's delight, The Wiz Live! was NBC's best live performance to date.
Yes, the ratings have yet to come in for the special (it did just finish, after all.) But based on the positive Twitter reactions, it's clear that The Wiz Live! was much more critically popular than both The Sound of Music (2013) and Peter Pan (2014). Many felt the success of The Wiz Live! would determine whether or not NBC would continue airing live performances. Judging by social media alone, I would say there will definitely be more musicals in NBC’s future.
But what made The Wiz Live! the best NBC live performance to date? What made it more better than musicals that are just as popular and loved? Well, I can point to a variety of reasons. Some of which aren't as simple as the song and dance. From the couture-like costumes to the sweet, yet simple, message, here are seven reasons why The Wiz Live! was able to exceed expectations earn an online round of applause.
1. The Cast
The Sound of Music had Carrie Underwood and Stephen Moyer. Peter Pan has Allison Williams and Christopher Walken. But as talented as these individuals are, these A-listers simply weren't enough to carry a three-hour performance. Casting directors must have taken note, as they assembled an all-star ensemble that included Mary J. Blige, Queen Latifah, Uzo Aduba, Common, Ne-Yo, and many more. How could a cast of that populariy and talent not attract accolades?
2. The Music
Although previous live performances have boasted beautiful songs, they weren't tunes that can excite an audience. (Unless you're, like, super into "My Favorite Things.") But The Wiz's soundtrack is a beautiful blend of ballads and upbeat, brass-based tunes that will either move you to tears or make you move.
3. The Dancing
And while we're talking about moving your feet, can we discuss the dancing? The Wiz Live! blended the traditional Broadway style with more modern techniques like voguing, tutting, and even the "nae nae." Given choreographer Fatima Robinson's background (including choreographing for the original Scarecrow, Michael Jackson), it's no surprise that the dancing was sharp and eye-catching.
4. The Costumes
Now, this isn't to say shows with simple wardrobes can't be amazing. But it's hard to not be impressed with The Wiz Live!'s costumes. Using bold colors and patterns (and an abundance of glitter), costume designer Paul Tazewell created an ensemble that makes us want to shop at The Emerald City Mall. (Though we'd pass on some of these slightly terrifying outfits.)
5. The Modern Touches
Though The Wiz Live! kept to Charlie Small's original plot and music, the producers did manage to throw in a few references for its millennial viewers. (Who knew the Good Witch of the North could use an iPad? And that the Wiz loved the Spice Girls enough to quote "Wannabe"?) These minor touches kept the show feeling modern, while still staying true to the original production.
6. The Timing
In a year when equality and diversity in Hollywood were hot topics, it was refreshing to see a performance that featured seven women of color as lead characters.
7. The Simplicity
Rather than relying on special effects to wow the audience, the producers trusted the cast and crew to create a show-stopping performance. Sure there were a few wire-enabled entrances and the ocassional smoke show to dazzle the viewers. But at the end of the day, it was the talent — both on stage and off — the carried the show.
Needless to say, the bar has been set pretty high for NBC's 2016 performance. Here's hoping it can live up to — and even exceed — expectations.
Images: NBC Universal