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How It Could Go Down: The Wiz Live Cast

On December 3, NBC will air a live production of The Wiz. While Stephanie Mills has been cast as Aunt Em, there has been rampant speculation about who would play the other roles.  A few months ago, Broadway Black offered readers a chance to voice who they would cast in the lead roles and the answers ranged from Fantasia Barrino as Dorothy to Terrance Howard as The Wiz.

Of course, everyone has their opinion on who would be an ideal fit, and I am no exception.  Caveat: the following picks were chosen because of how I think their voices would sound on particular songs, not necessarily because they have the dramatic chops to pull off the role. (which reflects how these things are perceived sometimes to be cast)

With that in mind, these are my casting choices for The Wiz:

Dorothy: There are several artists who could perform this role (e.g., Janelle Monae, Jordan Sparks), but I think an interesting choice would be Tamia. Tamia is one of those singers who is a success but completely underrated.  Tamia has vocal control, tone, emoting, and range. She would be a great choice.  And as this clip shows, not only can she sing, but she harmonizes well, which is critical in most of the songs Dorothy sings.

Evilene: This was a tough call. There are a lot of singers who can belt out a song. The main requirements for “Don’t Nobody Bring Me No Bad News” are that the singer needs to blow the roof off of the theatre and needs to take the listeners to church. But what also needs to be conveyed is some serious attitude. I dare you to watch this and not think that Ledisi won’t have you ready for the offering plate and scared out of your ruby red slippers at the same time.

Glinda; Hands down, my choice is Patti LaBelle.  “Home” is obviously the centerpiece song of the musical, but “Believe in Yourself” is a powerful song that can move one to tears in the hands of the right singer. If LaBelle’s rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is any indication, there won’t be a dry eye in the audience.

Cowardly Lion: This was a bit tough, as finding a true tenor isn’t as easy as one might think.  But after much thought, Anthony Hamilton came to mind. His recent tribute to Percy Sledge and B.B. King shows that his voice would be well suited for “(I’m a) Mean Ole Lion.”

Tin Man: Obba Babatunde (Dreamgirls), no stranger to the Broadway stage, would be a great fit for Tin Man.  The Tony nominated actor dances, sings, plays instruments, and would add much needed gravitas to “What Would I Do If I Could Feel.”

Scarecrow: This is an interesting one. After going back and forth trying to decide between a few options, it came down to young Chris Brown (the pre-tattoos and jail version). He can sing, dance, and act well enough to convey the sense of sincere naïvete for the Scarecrow. A predictable choice? Perhaps, but one that would be a simple fit.

The Wiz: Dave Chappelle would be an unorthodox choice. His comedic timing is obvious, but since walking away from the spotlight, Chappelle has acquired a bit of seriousness, even in his standup routines, which could translate to his ability to make The Wiz a sympathetic character.  It’s a risky choice, but could yield a huge payoff.

Obviously this list is quite the dream, but I’m anxious to see what NBC will do with their final castings.  No matter who is chosen, I’ll be watching.

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