Press release, Aug. 5, 2015:
Rising star Shanice Williams, an 18-year-old New Jersey native who has been raised and trained in musical theater, is the new Dorothy in NBC’s upcoming holiday production of “The Wiz Live!,” set for Thursday, Dec. 3.
Williams was selected out of hundreds of applicants nationwide who had auditioned to portray the iconic role of a Kansas farm girl who gets swept up in a tornado and is sent to the mysterious land of Oz.
With five years of musical training that also includes extensive dance and piano, Williams has co-starred in several local productions, including “West Side Story,” “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” “42nd Street,” “Seussical” and “Pippin.”
Last year Williams was nominated for best leading actress in a musical at the Paper Mill Playhouse’s annual Rising Star Awards.
NBC recently raised the project’s star quotient in a big way by adding multi-award winners and A-list stars Queen Latifah and Mary J. Blige to the telecast.
Queen Latifah stars as the Wiz, the mysterious and powerful wizard who holds the keys to the Emerald City, but whose metamorphosis from ordinary to extraordinary is itself a hoax. She rose to her lofty position after being transported by accident to Oz in a hot air balloon during a snowstorm.
Mary J. Blige will play Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West, who holds sway over the Winkies and the Winged Monkeys that do her bidding. She captures Dorothy and her friends to avenge the unintentional murder of her evil sister, Evvamean, and to get back the powerful silver slippers given to Dorothy by the Good Witch of the North.
David Alan Grier will play the Cowardly Lion, who asks Dorothy if he can join her in her journey down the Yellow Brick Road and ask the Wiz for some courage, which he is severely lacking.
Stephanie Mills was previously announced to portray Auntie Em in “The Wiz Live!” Mills is best known to many for playing Dorothy in the original Broadway production of “The Wiz.”
“The Wiz Live!” 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.
Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (“The Sound of Music Live!,” “Peter Pan Live!,” Oscar-winning “Chicago”) will executive produce. Kenny Leon (Tony winner, “A Raisin in the Sun”) is stage director and Matthew Diamond is TV director, with Harvey Fierstein (three-time Tony winner, “Torch Song Trilogy,” “Hairspray” and “La Cage aux Folles”) providing new written material.
Esteemed choreographer Fatima Robinson (“Dreamgirls,” “Ali”) is also on board, along with music producer Harvey Mason Jr. (“Dreamgirls, “Pitch Perfect 2”) and Stephen Oremus (“The Book of Mormon,” “Kinky Boots”) as music director, orchestrator and co-producer of the music.
“The Wiz Live!” is produced by Universal Television in association with Cirque Du Soleil Theatrical.