"'Cause they taped it on only one day..." - NBC's The Sound of Music

...The NBC-TV remake of Rogers & Hammerstein's THE SOUND OF MUSIC as a " live play " production's airing is about one month in the past now , and I meant to post about it here before that ! But I didn't...

  With 18 million viewers IIRC , it certainly qualified as " a hit " . NBC even repeated it a week-and-a-halfish later .

  I saw it both times:-) .

  It was meant to be a " TV play/live production " in the mode of the PLAYHOUSE 90/BELL TELEPHONE HOURs of yore , NBC claiming " For the first time in fifty years..." . I , myself , on the West Coast of the continguous 48 states of the USA (California) saw it as an immediate taped repeat , anyway , being 3 time zones to the west of the Eastern Time Zone , where it would have indeed shown live ~ along with the Central Time Zone .

  The Mountain Time Zone , especially for such a " holiday special " as this , I am not so sure about . Anyone ?????

  Has it shown outside of the U.S,. yet ~ I know we have Australian and Canadian residents here , others ???

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...So what were the three " naughty " bits , 'Homes ? (See how I think :-)!!!!!!!!!)

ClarkKent_DC said:

I didn't watch The Wiz Live! live (life tends to get in the way of TV watching sometimes), and then discovered, somehow, that we didn't record it. Thanks to the magic of On Demand, though, I did see it last night. (Isn't it wonderful living in the future?)

Some thoughts:

  • The Wiz Live!, like the previous NBC live stage play productions, is based on the Broadway musical, not the movie.
  • I have not seen the play but I saw the movie back when it was in theaters in (gulp!) 1978. old photo old.gif
  • Following the tradition of making a movie and not casting the lead actress from the play (examples: Audrey Hepburn for Julie Andrews in My Fair Lady; Natalie Wood and Rita Moreno for Carol Lawrence and Chita Rivera in West Side Story; Janet Leigh for Chita Rivera in Bye, Bye Birdie; and, oddest of all, Barbra Streisand for Carol Channing in Hello, Dolly!), The Wiz featured Diana Ross as Dorothy instead of Stephanie Mills. (Wikipedia says Ross finagled behind the scenes to get the part.)
  • I recall the casting controversy at the time. The Wiz, and The Wizard of Oz, is a young girl's coming-of-age story, and as wonderful as Diana Ross might be in many respects, at 33 (at the time) she wasn't a young girl. So the story had to be bent to fit her; Dorothy was now a 24-year-old teacher who had never been away from her home in Harlem. But enough about the movie.
  • It totally warmed my heart to see Stephanie Mills come on screen as Auntie Em. (I met her once when I was working on my campus newspaper, at press conference for a revival of The Wiz. She's, like, two feet tall, so she could totally play a young girl in a coming-of-age story. Heck, she could do it today -- she looks great!)
  • Shanice Williams was a winsome, winning Dorothy, and there were moments when she did sound like Stephanie Mills.
  • David Alan Grier was so buried under his costume and makeup, I couldn't tell it was him.
  • Amber Riley, late of Glee, was clearly having fun.
  • Nice little updates throughout of today's slang. But as a family-friendly production, I could have done without the (three) instances that pushed it from G to PG territory.
  • Wait a minute -- the dog doesn't make the journey to Oz? It's just as well; they likely saved themselves any number of logistical hassles that way.
  • Mary J. Blige, as the Wicked Witch of the West, was a riot.
  • One more note about the movie: Richard Pryor was wasted as The Wiz, playing him as a pathetic loser. Since Diana Ross finagled her way into being the lead, it is she, not The Wiz, who tells the Tin Man, The Scarecrow, and The Cowardly Lion that they really all along had the heart, brains, and courage they were seeking. Fortunately, The Wiz Live! properly restores the balance and has The Wiz impart these lessons.
  • To mention the other famous movie version of this story, I've seen it many, many, many times -- but it wasn't until I was a full-grown adult (after watching The Wizard of Oz many, many, many times) did I realize that when The Wizard sent Dorothy and company to fetch the broom of The Wicked Witch of the West, he was sending them on a suicide mission! He didn't expect them to come back alive!  photo eek.gif In The Wiz Live, however, he straight-up demands Dorothy and crew kill The Wicked Witch of the West! The Wiz is an evil dude!
  • Ah, but The Wiz isn't a dude! Not in this version, owing to casting Queen Latifah as The Wiz. She did fine.
  • Likewise, Ne-Yo and Elijah Kelley as The Tin Man and The Scarecrow were fine. Flavor of the month Uzo Aduba as Glinda the Good Witch less so, as well as Common as the Bouncer. Common has an Oscar, but it's not for his acting.
  • Speaking of Oscars, as noted above, NBC made sure to make up for the lack of star power in Peter Pan Live! The cast of The Wiz Live! has a boatload of Grammy Awards and Grammy, Tony, and Oscar nominations.

All in all, a winning effort. Here's to the next one!

Also, if you missed it, and don't have On Demand, NBC will rebroadcast The Wiz Live! on Saturday, Dec. 19 at 8 p.m.

ClarkKent_DC said:

  • Nice little updates throughout of today's slang. But as a family-friendly production, I could have done without the (three) instances that pushed it from G to PG territory.


Emerkeith Davyjack said:

...So what were the three " naughty " bits , 'Homes ? (See how I think :-)!!!!!!!!!)

Suffice to say there was language that would not pass the Comics Code. 

The ratings are in, and they look good! The Wiz Live! didn't do as well as Sound of Music Live!, but with 11.5 million viewers, did far better than Peter Pan Live!

Here's Variety's take: "‘The Wiz Live’ Ratings Strong: NBC Musical Draws 11.5 Million View...

And here's a report from Broadway World, with enough numbers to make you dizzy: "Ratings Gains for NBC's THE WIZ LIVE Now On Par with 'Sound of Mus...

Oh, yeah, we haven't mentioned that there's a plan to take this production of The Wiz Live! on tour! No word on whether anyone from this cast will be in that version, although lead Shanice Williams is open to the idea. Here's an interview with her in The Hollywood Reporter"'The Wiz': Shanice Williams Considering Broadway Revival"

Also from The Hollywood Reporter: an interview with producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. "'The Wiz' Producers on How the Oscars Turned NBC's Live Musical Into a Hit — and Why 'Peter Pan' Was a "Mistake"

Interesting stuff in here about how they approached staging it:

Zadan: We did the show very differently than we did the other shows. The material is more contemporary. We set out to give it a more authentic feel so we hired Harvey Mason Jr., who is the music producer who did the soundtrack for Dreamgirls and has worked with a lot of black R&B artists and won a zillion Grammys. It didn't have a Broadway pit band sound; it had an authentic, black R&B sound. We addressed the music in that way.

We also hired Fatima Robinson, who is not a Broadway choreographer, to do authentic black dancing. She comes from hip-hop and a lot of her point of view on dance is very gritty and authentic and raw. And we hired Kenny Leon, who doesn't really direct musicals; he's a Tony-winning director of plays. He gets performances out of actors that are deeper and more real; he doesn't let anybody give a performance that's a musical comedy performance. He makes them give a real, honest performance — almost like you'd see in a play.

and also this thought about why Peter Pan Live! flopped:

Zadan: We're not so slaphappy to jump in and pick a title because that's what we did when we came off the success off Sound of Music and went into Peter Pan. What we didn't know about Peter Pan — and there was no way to know this — was that Peter Pan, as a piece, has overstayed its welcome. What we discovered, too late of course, is that people aren't interested in Peter Pan. As evidenced by the fact that the Peter Pan movie [Pan] that came out a couple months ago — that cost $150 million — disappeared after one weekend. Clearly, this idea of Peter Pan being a viable story right now is not the case. As a result of that, we made a mistake in choosing it and I don't think we should jump on something; we should think it through and figure out what the next choice should be in the progression of "what do you follow The Wiz with so we can keep moving forward and not backward?"

ClarkKent_DC said:

The ratings are in, and they look good! The Wiz Live! didn't do as well as Sound of Music Live!, but with 11.5 million viewers, did far better than Peter Pan Live!

Very glad to hear this!

...the Wiz's 1970s beginning certainly greatly predated " hip-hop " as we know it becoming a generally known concept !

  Therefore , hip-hopping it was GREATLY updating it .

Julie Andrews' Cinderella was taped live. Legend has it that there was once a color copy but someone presumably took it home and kept it so the special exists only in black and white today.

Looks as if there was a British version of *The Sound of Music* done live, with a new cast:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5285494/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_3

...Some years back , there was a Brit reality show titled " How Do You Solve A Problem like Maria ? " , actually casting a West End revival of TSOM .

Don Mankowski said:

Looks as if there was a British version of *The Sound of Music* done live, with a new cast:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5285494/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_3

Following the lead of the NBC network, the FOX network is airing a live musical on January 31:

GREASE - LIVE !

...The movie version of Grease differed considerably from the original Chicago/New York stage version , more so than the differnces that filmed stage musicals tend to have , perhaps most notably in that the movie version added several , rather more " pop "/radio fodder (of the time) songs by writers other than Casey-Jacobs , the show's author , most of which are the songs that people tend to associate with the Grease movie !!

  I believe modern-times stage productions of Grease tend to reflect the movie version more , using the movie-added songs and dropping the stage songs the movie dropped ~ Including the original's climactic song , " All Choked Up " , which (aw , come on ~ Maggie ?) sums up the two lovers' union at the end , " You're The One That I Want " filled the same place in the movie . I certinly wouldn't expect them to drop " YTOTIW " - especially Fox ? - but maybe " ACU " could be heard before the final of " YTO..." ?

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