The Wiz Live: Unapologetic Blackness
Last Night’s production of The Wiz is extraordinary evidence for the existence of a Black Culture and Black Thought.
Everything…from the music, to the costuming, to the choreography, and the dialogue…EVERYTHING…was uniquely black.
It wasn’t merely the 1939 Wizard of Oz with a black cast. No, it was a complete reimagining of the concept of the story from a totally different cultural perspective.
I was stunned at how unapologetically BLACK this show was. There was so much that was culturally coded for black people that made it that much more enjoyable to watch. At the same time, a lot of the blackness was so subtle that I wondered if those without context would miss it.
A lot of the crowing on social media about how “racist” this production was (before it aired) showed just how ignorant some people actually are. Though based on the same source material, one could never confuse The Wiz Live with The Wizard of Oz.
The Wiz Live did borrow some visual elements from the 1939 movie, which was a solid move in my opinion. The 1939 movie is so iconic that the uninitiated viewer needed a reference point to get into the story.
To be fair, The Wiz Live is also quite a bit different than The Wiz movie (it is patterned off the Broadway production), also. Most people who are familiar with The Wiz movie might have been taken aback by just how different from the movie it is.
Never have I seen something that so completely centered my culture in every way.
Here are a few examples of what I’m talmbout:
* The Cowardly Lion had locs.
* The dialogue. It was obviously in the African American dialect, but it didn’t sound forced, and it captured not only the lexicon but the actual inflection and cadence of AAVE. The actors also captured the different accents of AAVE.
* The hairstyles
* The costuming had a je ne sais quoi that made it feel black. Particularly the Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman, and Cowardly Lion
* The nod to Black Church culture the “Y’all Got It” number
The Wiz Live succeeded because it centered blackness in a way that wasn’t at all contrived. The Wiz Live wasn’t trying to be a black version of the 1939 Wizard of Oz, it succeded as an adaptation of the books.
In fact, I’d argue that The Wiz Live was slightly closer to the source material than the original film.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Wiz, and I hope that those who were in these e-streets decrying The Wiz as racist actually watched it and realized how asinine their comments were.
The Wiz was a showcase of excellence. There was so much to love about it. I hope that NBC re-airs this performance for years to come. I hope that this leads to the movie being re-made with the same cast as this production.
We witnessed history.