Shanice Williams, an 18-year-old New Jersey native raised and trained in musical theater, has been cast as Dorothy in NBC’s upcoming holiday production of The Wiz Live!, set for Thursday, December 3. She was one of hundreds of applicants nationwide who auditioned to play the role taken on by Diana Ross in Sidney Lumet’s 1978 film adaptation of the Broadway musical.
NBC’s production will feature Queen Latifah as the Wiz, Mary J. Blige as Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West, David Alan Grier as the Cowardly Lion, and Stephanie Mills, who played Dorothy in the original Broadway production of The Wiz, as Auntie Em. NBC had courted Beyonce for the role of Glinda the Good Witch.
The Wiz Live!, produced by Universal Television in association with Cirque Du Soleil Theatrical, 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. Craig Zadan and Neil Meron will executive produce. Kenny Leon (Broadway’s A Raisin In The Sun, Holler If Ya Hear Me) is stage director and Matthew Diamond is TV director, with Harvey Fierstein providing new written material. Choreographer Fatima Robinson is also on board, along with music producer Harvey Mason Jr. and Stephen Oremus as music director, orchestrator and co-producer of the music.
Williams has had five years of musical training, including extensive dance and piano, and has co-starred in several local productions, including West Side Story, You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown, 42nd Street, Seussical and Pippin. Last year, she was nominated for best leading actress in a musical at the Paper Mill Playhouse’s annual Rising Star Awards.