The Wiz

Ratings for last year’s Peter Pan Live! were disappointing enough that NBC felt the need to publicly blame stars Allison Williams and Christopher Walken. Nevertheless, the network is pressing onward with its now annual tradition of staging live televised musicals, with The Wiz as their next target.

Naturally, The Wiz live show will involve some high-profile stunt-casting. But at least this one feels genuinely intriguing: Cirque du Soleil is teaming with NBC for The Wiz live show, setting up Broadway run. Get all the details on The Wiz live show after the jump. 

NBC announced the decision this week. The Wiz is based on the 1975 Broadway show of the same title, which reimagined The Wizard of Oz in Harlem, New York with an all-black cast. In 1978, the stage musical was adapted into a movie starring Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, and Richard Pryor.

Cirque du Soleil will co-produce The Wiz live show, which will then be presented as a Broadway revival in the 2016-2017 season. Kenny Leon will direct both the TV and stage versions. Harvey Weinstein will add new material to the Broadway book by William F. Brown. Craig Zaden and Neil Meron of Sound of Music Live! and Peter Pan Live! return to executive produce.

NBC chairman Robert Greenblatt gushed about the upcoming The Wiz live presentation in a statement:

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. 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 Wiz will be the third live musical staged by NBC. The first, 2013’s Sound of Music Live!, was a ratings juggernaut, attracting over 18 million viewers. In comparison, 2014’s Peter Pan Live! drew only 9 million viewers, which left Greenblatt bemoaning Walken and Williams’ lack of star power.

Previously, the network revealed that it was deciding between The Wiz and The Music Man for their 2015 live show. However, EW writes that The Wiz emerged as “the obvious choice” after Fox hit it big this season with the hip-hop drama Empire.

The pick also reflects Greenblatt’s other theory about what went wrong with Peter Pan Live!: the fact that fewer people were familiar with the original Broadway show. Not only is The Wiz a younger and hipper musical, it inspired a well known movie. True, that film flopped upon its initial release, but it’s since gained a cult following.

Plus, with Cirque du Soleil involved, we can likely look forward to a more polished, professional affair. That should make for a nice change from the hatewatch-worthy shows of years past, with their miscast celebrities and shoddy sets.

No casting has been announced as of yet for The Wiz live show. The musical will air December 3 on NBC.

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