And that’s how you put on a show! The Wiz Live! may be NBC’s third recent attempt at staging a live musical, but it’s the first one that worked without any caveats necessary. I was kinder to The Sound Of Music Live! and Peter Pan Live! than most critics because I felt there was a lot of potential in the idea of staging live musical theater on TV. Tonight NBC proved my faith was well placed with a musical event that was finally worth watching and not just hate-watching.
Last night’s broadcast was full of black actors of all different ages, skin tones, and body types playing characters that ranged from saintly to villainous and everywhere in-between (sometimes all at once: Dorothy is probably the most lovable murderer ever written). The show asserted—often explicitly—that these characters are smart, brave, loving, powerful, and beautiful. White audiences take it for granted how often we’re bolstered up by the media we watch. The Wiz Live!sent the same message to black audiences while simultaneously offering up a goofy, heartwarming piece of entertainment for everyone.