When he wasn’t losing his temper over being questioned about Bill Cosby on Friday, NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt was revealing new details about the network’s next live musical production. Namely, that while the previously announced The Music Man live broadcast was still in development, another show may premiere first: The Wiz.
According to Greenblatt, NBC has closed a deal securing the rights to stage the soulful Wizard of Oz adaptation, which premiered on Broadway in 1975 with a predominantly black cast and went on to win seven Tonys, including Best Musical. But Greenblatt didn’t announce any names that might star in the live production of the musical (which, it should be said, is a much more fun choice than the very dated The Music Man). So let’s pick out our dream cast!
Dorothy Gale: Janelle Monáe
The role of Dorothy Gale requires a great dancer and singer with a youthful look, and no one could fit that bill better than the bright-eyed, golden-voiced, and sure-footed Monáe. While Monáe doesn’t have much acting experience, she seems fully capable of harnessing the spirit of Dorothy. Plus, she’s originally from Kansas!
Aunt Em: Gladys Knight
For the role of Aunt Em, you need a matriarchal figure who can convey warmth and a sense of the past—who better than the Empress of Soul? And Knight would dominate “The Feeling We Once Had,” kicking the show off to a great start.
The Scarecrow: Usher
Even if you’ve seen the stage version, it’s impossible not to equate the limber role with anyone other than Michael Jackson, who played him in the 1978 film adaptation. In this case, Usher—who has danced and sung beside the King of Pop himself—is a natural fit.
The Tin Man: Drake
The Tin Man longs for a heart; Drake loves to rap and sing about all the women who have broken his heart.
The Lion: Kanye West
The Lion’s costume is the most elaborate of the main characters’, befitting West’s taste in fashion. (Maybe DONDA could lend a hand with the design?) And Kanye growling “(I’m a) Mean Ole Lion”—a song perfect for West’s mix of bluster and fragility—would be nothing short of TV ratings gold.
Addaperle, the Good Witch of the North: Jennifer Hudson
Hudson is a lively performer, which is just what the role of Addaperle needs. And her voice is perfectly suited for “He’s the Wizard,” a slinky number that introduces Dorothy to the mythology of the Wiz.
Glinda, the Good Witch of the South: Beyoncé
It’s a small role, but the character gets a powerful inspirational ballad in the last moments of the show. No one sings an inspirational ballad better than Beyoncé.
Evillene: Queen Latifah
Queen Latifah was great as Matron Mama Morton in Chicago, and she could easily tap into her nastier side to sing the evil witch’s signature “No Bad News.”
The Wiz: Eddie Murphy
Murphy can sing, as he demonstrated in his Oscar-nominated turn in Dreamgirls (not to mention his many attempts at launching a music career) and as that movie also showed, he’s good at tapping into a sad, pathetic persona. Plus, it’d be great to see Murphy take on some good material for the first time in a long time.