NBC partners with Cirque du Soleil for ‘The Wiz’ live-action musical
With ‘Peter Pan’ and ‘The Sound of Music’ behind them, NBC is moving onto ‘The Wiz’ as the network’s next major live-action musical. NBC announced today that the network will debut the new television production of the former Broadway musical on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015. The confirmation came from Robert Greenblatt, Chairman, NBC Entertainment.
The partnership will have the musical be executive produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron through NBC, as Cirque du Soleil’s new stage theatrical division will co-produce the live TV event and then present it as a major Broadway revival for the 2016-17 season. Tony Award-winning director Kenny Leon will stage both the television production and Broadway revival of “The Wiz” in collaboration with Tony winner and Broadway icon Harvey Fierstein, who will contribute new material to the original Broadway book by William F. Brown.
“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,” said Greenblatt. “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.”
“We are delighted that NBC and Cirque du Soleil will present ‘The Wiz,’” said Zeiger. “It’s a musical I have wanted to produce for years and it’s the perfect show to present under the new Cirque du Soleil Theatrical banner.”
“We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to not only produce this as our next live musical for NBC, but to then see it move to Broadway for a new generation to experience,” said Zadan. “It will be a joy to work again with Kenny Leon, who did ‘Steel Magnolias’ and ‘Raisin in the Sun’ with us,” added Meron.
Universal Television will produce. Casting for both the NBC telecast and Cirque du Soleil’s Broadway production will be announced at a later date.
“The Wiz” 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.
The musical ran for four years on Broadway. Said Newsweek critic Jack Kroll during the show’s Broadway run: “… one of the most cyclonic blasts of high energy to hit Broadway in a long time … blazing high spirits, piping hot servings of soul and sly sagacity about the pleasures and perils of fantasy.”
“The Wiz” tells the classic story hundreds of millions of people have read in the L. Frank Baum books and then saw in the much-beloved 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz,” but retold in an African-American/multicultural context. Dorothy, a young woman from Kansas, is swept up in a tornado and relocated to a fantasy world that is inhabited by munchkins, good and bad witches, and, of course, flying monkeys. She eventually takes a path down a yellow brick road to find a wizard who can help her go home and along the way meets a scarecrow, tin man and cowardly lion, who all learn to help one another.
Craig Zadan and Neil Meron produced NBC’s two previous live holiday musicals, “The Sound of Music Live!” and “Peter Pan Live!” Most recently the pair produced the 87th Academy Awards telecast, their third consecutive Oscars. In addition to Emmy Award nominations for “The Sound of Music Live!” and the Oscars, Zadan and Meron have been nominated for TV works that include “Gypsy,” “Cinderella,” “Annie,” “The Beach Boys: An American Family” and “A Raisin in the Sun.” Zadan and Meron were also Tony nominated in 2011 for their Broadway revival of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” On the big screen, they are the producers of two very successful movie musicals: the Oscar-winning “Chicago” and “Hairspray.”
“The Wiz” will be directed by Tony winner and DGA nominee Kenny Leon. In 2014, Leon won a Tony for helming the play “A Raisin in the Sun” and was nominated in 2010 for the Broadway production of “Fences.” His 2009 DGA nomination was for the television adaptation of “A Raisin in the Sun.” Other small-screen credits include TV movies “Steel Magnolias” “In My Dreams,” and “The Watsons Go to Birmingham,” as well as television shows such as “Ghost Whisperer” and “Private Practice.”
Harvey Fierstein, who will contribute new material to the original book of “The Wiz,” is a Broadway legend, both as a prolific writer and star. As a writer, he won Tonys for “La Cage Aux Folles” and “Torch Song Trilogy,” and he has also written the books for other musical hits such as “Kinky Boots” and “Newsies.” As an actor, he is a member of an elite group who have won Tonys as Best Actor in a Musical (for originating the iconic role of Edna in “Hairspray”) and Best Actor in a Play (for his own “Torch Song Trilogy”).