My excitement about The Wiz Live!, was a slow burn, but day of show, I was all in! The music was dope - shout out to Harvey Mason Jr. on the production. The costumes were gorgeous! I am completely obsessed with the patchwork coat and messenger bag Amber Riley rocked as the good witch of the north. And listen, David Alan Grier's cowardly lion and those locs gave me my whole life!
I could not help thinking of all the amazing theater my mother exposed me and my sister to as children, and The Wiz was easily the most magical. As a child, I was completely captivated by Stephanie Mills as Dorothy, not only because she looked like me, but more because she was so soulful. There was an energy I connected to. I did not have the acute awareness of how little African Americans were represented in media or the concept of "different" until much later. My days were spent at an elementary school that was a melting pot of diversity. I grew up enjoying seaweed snacks and sharing red beans and rice with my classmates. Pure connections based on energy exchange. Can you imagine a world where we move through life with the innocence of children? Sadly, that is not the case. Kids grow up and take on the agreements of jaded adults who run the world. Race relations become a reality.
As a conscious adult, The Wiz Live! has had a much greater impact on me. Understanding the significance of an all-black cast, in a prime time special on a major network, contemporizing The Wizard Of Oz, was huge. I loved how social media allowed us to witness little black boys and girls standing in front of the television, completely captivated by people European standards have tried to convince us are less than beautiful. This version put curvy curlies front and center and I LOVED every moment of it! Kudos to NBC for finally airing a musical that (obviously) folks wanted to see. From all accounts, The Wiz Live! garnered the best ratings of their "live" franchise to date. Take note folks, we have great influence. There MUST be away to harness it for our greater good.
*illustration by the amazing James Claridades