NBC will debut a new live television production of the hit Broadway musical “The Wiz” on Thursday, Dec. 3, it was announced today by Robert Greenblatt, Chairman, NBC Entertainment.
Entering into a unique 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 of “The Wiz” in collaboration with Tony winner and Broadway icon 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. “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,'” said 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.
“The Wiz” is adapted from “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum, with a book by William F. Brown, and music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls. The production opened on Broadway in 1975 at the Majestic Theatre and won seven Tonys, including best musical. The musical ran for four years on Broadway. “The Wiz” was also adapted into a 1978 feature film, directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell, Ted Ross, Lena Horne and Richard Pryor.
“The Wiz” tells the classic story hundreds of millions of people have read in the L. Frank Baum books and then saw in the much-beloved 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, but retold in an African-American/multicultural context. 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.