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Trivia / The Wiz

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The musical

  • Acting for Two: A 2006 multi-ethnic La Jolla Playhouse staging used the same actress for both Aunt Em and Glinda, Valarie Pettiford.
  • All-Star Cast: The movie and TV versions feature several of their respective decades' most-renowned African-American entertainers, although the latter also has a then-newcomer, Shanice Williams, as Dorothy.
  • Cut Song:
    • "You Can't Win" was dropped from the stage version, but appeared in the movie and TV versions as a replacement for "I Was Born on the Day Before Yesterday".
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    • "Wonder, Wonder Why" is a song where Dorothy contemplates the task to kill Evilene given to her by the Wiz. It would've taken place after Dorothy is captured by the monkeys and put to work, but it was cut from the original stage version because it slowed the story down. However, it was reinstated for the 1984 Broadway revival.
  • Dawson Casting: Some actresses in their twenties or thirties have played Dorothy either on stage, or in the movie.
  • Role Reprisal:
    • Broadway's original Dorothy, Stephanie Mills, played Dorothy again in a 1984 Broadway revival and a 1993 tour. The latter also brought back Andre De Shields as The Wiz.
    • A 2009 Off-Broadway production at New York City Center starred Ashanti as Dorothy Gale, a role she played a different interpretation of in The Muppets' Wizard of Oz.
  • Star-Making Role: Stephanie Mills struggled to sell any of her music until she became Dorothy and earned praise from audiences and critics alike. By the end of The ’80s, Mills also turned "Home" into a hit R&B single.
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  • Unintentional Period Piece: Both screen adaptations, as a side effect of reflecting two different eras of African-American culture.
  • What Could Have Been: Broadway producer Ken Harper had previously considered adapting The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as a one-hour TV special, starring Melba Moore as Dorothy, Flip Wilson as the Scarecrow, and Bill Cosby as the Cowardly Lion.

The movie

  • Box Office Bomb: Cost $24,000,000 to make, brought back only $13,600,000 upon release.
  • Cut Song: Four songs and four dance numbers were either dropped or replaced for the film, some due to plot changes: "Tornado Ballet", "I Was Born On The Day Before Yesterday", "Kalidah Battle", "Lion's Dream", "Emerald City Ballet (Psst)", "Who Do You Think You Are?", "Y'all Got It!", and "A Rested Body Is a Rested Mind". "So You Wanted to Meet the Wizard?" became trimmed to just the intro and the first line. Among the new songs written for the movie, "Is This What Feeling Gets?" was dropped (it's on the soundtrack album), though it's the underscore's big instrumental motif.
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  • Dawson Casting: Diana Ross played a 24-year old Dorothy at age 34.
  • Executive Meddling: The producers wanted Stephanie Mills to reprise her role of Dorothy, but Diana Ross wanted the role badly enough she appealed directly to the Universal heads to twist their arms into casting her.
  • Genre-Killer: According to the Medved Brothers' Hollywood Hall of Shame book, the movie's box-office performance directly led to the cancellation of several major-studio projects that would have had predominantly black casts. Well into the 1980s, Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy would be the only black leads that were reliable box-office performers, and that was largely via Uncle Tomfoolery and Salt and Pepper pairings.
  • Playing Against Type: Directing variant. Sidney Lumet is the last person you'd expect to direct a musical....and it shows.
  • The Shelf of Movie Languishment: To tie-in with the movie, Diana Ross recorded an album titled, Diana Ross Sings Songs From The Wiz. Motown originally intended to release it about a year after the movie's premiere, but decided against it after the film flopped. It finally saw a digital release in November 2015, exactly one week before the NBC debut of The Wiz Live!
  • Role Reprisal: Tony winner Ted Ross & Mabel King note  reprised their roles from the original run of the musical as the Lion & Evilene respectively.
  • Star-Derailing Role: Diana Ross landed the starring role despite several early refusals from the film's crew due to her age at the time of production, forcing several changes to the script to accommodate Ross' older version of Dorothy. All of this, combined with the negative critical reaction of her overall performance ultimately prompted Ross to stick to singing instead of acting.
  • Troubled Production: The direction and casting led to a lot of the changes that made the film such a drastic departure from the musical; The producers had Stephanie Mills in mind to play Dorothy, but were ultimately convinced to cast Diana Ross who fought to get the part, which prompted director John Badham to quit out of dissatisfaction, and so Sidney Lumet stepped in to fill the chair. Rounding out the production was Joel Schumacher, and to accommodate Diana Ross' age rewrote the script to focus on a much older Dorothy living in New York City instead of Kansas. Lumet's inexperience with musicals, combined with these casting and scriptural decisions led to a lot of internal skepticism of the project that was ultimately vindicated when the film failed at the box office.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: On top of being a product of a time when Blaxploitation films were popular in the U.S., the film has an unmistakable 1970s feel throughout, from its tone, to the fashions, to the disco and funk-heavy soundtrack, among other things.
  • What Could Have Been: Stephanie Mills, who played Dorothy in the original Broadway production would've reprised the role for the movie, had Diana Ross not appealed directly to the head of Universal to get the part. The movie also had John Badham, the director of Saturday Night Fever, signed on to direct, until he quit out of disappointment with having to direct such an old Dorothy.

The TV special

  • Ability over Appearance: Kenny Leon explained that he cast Queen Latifah as the usually-male Wiz because he believed anyone could play the Wiz, and Queen Latifah happened to become the first Wiz that came to his mind.
  • Acting for Two: Some of the ensemble members played more than one role. This special also follows the lead of MGM's The Wizard of Oz by having the actors of the Scarecrow (Elijah Kelley), the Tin Man (Ne-Yo) and the Cowardly Lion (David Alan Grier) also portray Aunt Em's farmhands.
  • Blooper: A live televised performance seems bound to include a few slip-ups, although the DVD and some of the digital copies correct some of them.
    • At one point during the number "The Feeling We Once Had", the camera accidentally shows another camera pointing itself at Dorothy. The DVD cuts back to Aunt Em before this camera appears.
    • The smoke and sparks that were supposed to cause Addapearle to disappear didn't shoot up in time. She stood there awkwardly for a few seconds, before the camera switched to show the Munchkins and Dorothy. The DVD hides Addaperle by covering the screen in smoke until this switch occurs.
    • David Alan Grier apparently botched a line about wanting to see a movie in the Emerald City, instead asking his friends if they want to "catch a (beat) split before [they] split". This also made the Cowardly Lion's next lines ("I hope they don't put butter on their popcorn. I'm watchin' my cholesterol.") sound like a Non Sequitur. The DVD didn't correct this, but the digital captions try to cover up Grier's botching by saying that he asks his friends if they want to "catch a flick".
    • In "So You Wanted To Meet the Wizard", the Wiz enters the scene after a blast of smoke. NBC accidentally showed Queen Latifah onstage before this blast goes off, but the DVD uses a slightly longer shot of Dorothy and her friends to delay the Wiz's reveal.
    • When Dorothy says goodbye to the Good Witches, a magical whirling sound emits, implying they magically disappear during Dorothy's close-up. However, a viewer of the original broadcast or the DVD might notice Amber Riley walking normally off the set.
    • After Dorothy finished singing "Home", the camera didn't cut to the Silver Shoes until after Shanice Williams already started clicking her heels, resulting in the viewers seeing her click them two times instead of three. The DVD manages to show all three clicks.
    • The original broadcast had some instances where someone delivered a line from offscreen, some of which the DVD re-edited to actually show that person talking.
  • Cut Song: NBC's version had four songs from the play either skipped or replaced: "I Was Born On The Day Before Yesterday", "Who Do You Think You Are?", "Believe in Yourself" (though Glinda still sings the reprise), and "A Rested Body Is a Rested Mind" (reduced to some score accompanying Glinda's Big Entrance). Two songs added especially for the movie, "Can I Go On?" and "Emerald City Sequence", also didn't make it into this version, with the latter replaced by a re-written edition of the play's "Emerald City Ballet (Psst)".
  • Milestone Celebration: The TV version aired during the 40th Anniversary of the musical's Broadway premiere.
  • Production Posse:
  • Promoted Fanboy: Several cast members, including Queen Latifah and Mary J. Blige, already loved watching The Wiz on stage and/or as the movie before landing their roles.
  • Saved from Development Hell: Storyline Entertainment planned a TV version of The Wiz as far back as 1998, after producing Cinderella (1997) for The Wonderful World of Disney. However, rights issues with Universal prevented Storyline from progressing very far with the project.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Several lines sound like updated versions of dialogue from MGM's The Wizard of Oz.
    • Evillene's minions are very similar to the "fireys" from Labyrinth (lots of jumping around and flame-colored fur).
  • Troubled Production: The casting of Diana Ross as Dorothy led to many drastic changes to the final script, as well as convincing director John Badham to walk out on the project in protest of Ross taking the part of a character half her age, leading to Sidney Lumet eventually taking the part.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • NBC offered Beyoncé the chance to play Glinda, but she turned it down.
    • Promo pictures and videos show that Glinda originally had blonde curly hair. When the special actually aired, she sported brunette braid instead. According to Shanice Williams, the crew decided that letting Uzo Aduba show off her natural hair color would provide a stronger expression of African-American beauty.
  • Written by Cast Member: Two of the lead males of the TV version, Elijah Kelley and Ne-Yo, helped write a new song, "We Got It".
  • In addition to Stephanie Mills, cast members confirmed to have previously appeared in stage versions of The Wiz include David Alan Grier (The Wiz in a 2006 La Jolla Playhouse production), Queen Latifah (Dorothy in a high school production), and Shanice Williams (Addaperle in a junior high production).


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