The search for NBC’s next live musical is over with Monday’s announcement that The Wiz, a 1975 Broadway hit that re-tells The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with an all-black cast, will air on the network December 3.
Following the success of 2013’s A Sound of Music Live and last year’s flop Peter Pan Live, the network has enlisted the help of Cirque du Soleil, which will act as co-producer for the event, before taking it straight to Broadway as a revival for the 2016-17 theatre season.
E! NEWS reports NBC Chairman Robert Greenblatt spoke of the network’s excitement to work with Craig Zadan and Neil Meron once more, the men behind the two previous live productions:
“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,” he said.
He continued: “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.”
The network was reportedly considering two titles: The Wiz, and the 1957 hit The Music Man.
Findings from the 2nd annual Hollywood Diversity Report, commissioned by UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, revealed last month that audiences were hungrier for diverse casts and stories. Those findings, added with the success of FOX network’s hip-hop-themed musical drama Empire since January, are likely why The Wiz won out.
Last December’s Peter Pan Live, starring NBC’s Brian Williams’ daughter, Allison Williams, drew only 9.1 million viewers, down 51 percent from A Sound of Music, just one-year prior. Music attracted 18.5 million viewers, NBC’s largest Thursday night audience since ER’s final episode, per Entertainment Weekly.
The Wiz is an adaption of Oz, which aims to capture the essence of the African American experience, and it is set in a New York City-inspired Land of Oz.
Casting for The Wiz will be announced at a later date.