The next NBC live musical production has gained two cast members.
The network announced via Twitter that “Chicago” actress Queen Latifah and singer Mary J. Blige will star in the December production of “The Wiz.”
Reports say that Blige is playing the Wicked Witch of the West, while Latifah is portraying the Wiz herself.
It was previously announced that actress Stephanie Mills, who starred as Dorothy in the original 1975 Broadway production of “The Wiz,” will be portraying Auntie Em.
A movie version of “The Wiz” was released in 1978 and starred Diana Ross as Dorothy, Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow, actor Nipsey Russell as the Tinman, and Ted Ross as the Lion. Singer Lena Horne portrayed the good witch Glinda, while comedian Richard Pryor was the Wiz and actress Mabel King portrayed the Wicked Witch of the West, or Evillene, as she is known in “The Wiz.”
Latifah was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her work in the 2002 film version of “Chicago.” In addition to her singing career, Blige has appeared on the ABC TV show “Black-ish” and in the 2012 movie musical “Rock of Ages” and the 2013 movie “Black Nativity.”
NBC may be trying to bring in non-musical theater fans with the casting of Blige. While she has appeared in such movie musicals as “Rock” and “Nativity,” Blige is primarily known for her singing career, for which she has received multiple Grammys, such as the Best Contemporary R&B Album award in 2009 and Best R&B Song in 2007.
NBC’s first live musical in decades was the 2013 production “The Sound of Music Live!,” which starred country superstar Carrie Underwood. Ratings for NBC’s 2014 production, “Peter Pan Live!,” were lower and actors Allison Williams and Christopher Walken, who headlined “Pan,” may not have had the drawing power of Underwood. Blige’s presence could cause her many fans who may not have done so otherwise to tune in.